According to three independent sources, the network was serious about getting a pure-play sports channel in its bouquet, even since the success of Indian Premier League (IPL). It is now evaluating the final contours to bid for the acquisition of Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) global media rights.
The broadcaster is believed to have elevated Nitesh Kriplani as business head of the upcoming channel. At present, he is the senior vice-president of MSM for business development and syndication. The creative duties for the channel has been given to Euro RSCG.
When contacted, Manjit Singh, CEO, MSM, said , “It is premature to comment on this right now." The network, since past few years, had already started acquiring big sports properties. Apart from the money-spinner IPL, it also owns rights to New Zealand cricket, FA Cup football, and NBA basketball. At present, these are being telecasted on Max, which shows a mix of sports and movies.
This will be the 11th sports channel in the industry. The entry will give Sony a platform to take on rivals STAR and Zee, who currently dominate the space with ESPN Star Sports (ESS) and Taj Television (owned by Zee network). Between these two networks, there are seven channels operated, which include ESPN, STAR Sports, STAR Cricket, TEN Sports, TEN Cricket, TEN Action+ and TEN Golf. Other channels include Neo Sports, Neo Cricket and DD Sports.
According to industry officials, the soft launch of the channel will happen during the fifth edition of IPL, which kicks off on April 4.
The official launch will, however, be dependent on whether Sony acquires the BCCI’s global media rights for six years. The bids for the same will be opened on April 2, during the marketing committee meeting to be held in Chennai.
“If Sony wins the telecast rights, the channel may kick off in July-August, during the India and New Zealand Test series here, as it will give much needed live content for the launch ,” said an official of a rival broadcasting sports network.
MSM runs seven channels, Sony TV, SAB TV, SET Max, Sony Pix, AXN, Animax and music channel Sony Mix, and has a 17.4 per cent market share in the Hindi general entertainment space. Its general entertainment channel Sony TV, held on to the top three among Hindi entertainment channels, backed with change in programming in past few months.
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