Three years after exiting the Indian sports broadcast space, Disney’s ESPN will again be available for consumption in the country, through an association with the NP Singh-led Sony Pictures Network India (earlier called Multi Screen Media India).
The two have come together to launch Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD, both channels going on air from the coming Sunday. They begin by telecasting the first tennis grand slam tournament of the year, the Australian Open.
Sony Pictures Network (SPN) will continue to operate its sports channels, Sony Six and Sony Six HD, exclusive of the association. Its second sports channel, SonyKix, which launched last year, will go off-air and be relaunched as the standard definition channel, Sony ESPN.
In 2012, ESPN broke its joint venture of many years with STAR India. After which, it could not operate in Indian broadcast under a non-compete clause, whose tenure has since ended. This being so, the company decided to join hands with SPN, one of the three main sports broadcasters in the country. Both Singh, chief executive officer of SPN and Mike Morrison, vice-president, ESPN Asia Pacific, refuse to divulge details of the association between the two companies but confirm that these are only the first two channels to belaunched by them.
Later this year, the collaboration between SPN and ESPN will also see the launch of a multi-sport digital website and mobile app that will complement the Sony ESPN channels, as well as the existing leadership of ESPN Cricinfo and Sony LIV’s digital offerings. SPN and ESPN are also looking at developing ESPN Cricinfo programming in the coming months around major cricket events and to complement cricket coverage on the Sony ESPN and Sony Six channels.
Singh added that as of now, whenever a bid for a sports property broadcast right will be cast, it will be under SPN. However, allotting the broadcast of the property on winning the rights is a call SPN will take when the time comes.
The rights for the Vivo Indian Premier League, flagship cricket tournament on the network, come for review next year. Currently, the channels have the rights to air the UEFA Euro 2016, 2018 FIFA World Cup, La Liga BBVA, Serie A TIM, Emirates FA Cup, UEFA European Qualifiers for 2018 WC, FIFA Futsal World Cup 2016, Australian Open, Hopman Cup, Mubadala World Tennis Championship, Champions Tennis League, UFC, NFL, ATP 1000, ATP 500, ATP 250 and ATP World Tour Finals.