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ESPN acquires

BS Reporters  |  Mumbai 

Sports broadcaster ESPN's acquisition of cricket website from the Wisden Group signals the growing importance of cricket in the channel's global gameplan.
Announcing the acquisition today, Russell Wolff, managing director, ESPN International said, "Cricinfo is a tremendous property with a great fan base. It will be a strong addition to ESPN."
Media buyers say the acquisition is well timed as ESPN STAR Sports, Asia's leading sports broadcaster, has bagged the coveted International Cricket Council (ICC) global telecast and marketing rights till 2015.
Analysts estimate that the acquisition has a huge potential because Cricinfo taps into a global NRI audience. Its last owner, Wisden, also ensured that Cricinfo became the first option for fans of the sport.
However, the online advertising pie for sports websites is not yet huge. Out of an estimated Rs 250 crore that is spent on online advertising in India, only Rs 70 crore is spent on sports (read cricket) websites. Media buyers estimate that Cricinfo's revenues from the Indian market account for barely Rs 5 crore. It garners Rs 20-25 crore from overseas.
This is the second instance of a cricket portal being acquired by a television broadcaster. In 2006, Web 18, the online division of TV18 group, bought the Walchand group's
Started in 1993, Cricinfo has been an on-line community of cricket fans supplying cricket-related information on a voluntary basis. Beginning with scorecards and live scores, the portal went on to offer users audio and video streaming of cricket matches.
Cricinfo received its first major investment in 1999 from Sify, an IT company, which acquired a majority stake in it. It changed hands four years later when it was bought by the Wisden Group.

First Published: Tue, June 12 2007. 00:00 IST