The sports broadcasting category is in for some very serious competition. Three years after parting ways with Star India, ESPN is back to cater to the Indian sports audience. Jointly they are launching two channels – Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD
Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | January 12, 2015
Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) in collaboration with ESPN yesterday announced the launch of two new channels, Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD which will go live on January 17, 2016. As a result, the Sony sports offering increases to four channels – Sony ESPN, Sony ESPN HD, Sony Six and Sony Six HD. The Sony ESPN channels will kick off their sporting calendar with the live broadcast of the first tennis Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open. The collaboration will cross promote Sony Six and Sony ESPN as the network aggressively invests in its sports portfolio.
While Sony ESPN channels will benefit from both SPN’s powerful portfolio of sports and content, ESPN, with its leadership in sports content, will bring in more than 1,000 hours of programming annually from its portfolio of sports rights, original programming, award-winning sports documentaries and studio programmes.
At the moment the channel packaging includes cricket, football, tennis, rugby and wrestling. Over the year, the channel will look into localizing the sports content and add on few more channels under the Sony ESPN umbrella.
The programming line-up includes 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.
Needless to say, SPN already has the rights to the popular IPL.
SPN and ESPN are also looking at developing ESPNcricinfo programming in the coming months around major cricket events and to complement cricket coverage on the Sony ESPN and Sony Six channels.
At a select press meet held yesterday in Mumbai, , NP Singh, CEO, Sony Pictures Networks India, said that the launch of the two channels marks the comeback of ESPN and the SPN-ESPN tie-up will enable both to position themselves as the go-to network for sports entertainment.
Singh said, “As a network, SPN is focused on becoming the first choice in television and digital entertainment. Our collaboration with ESPN is a targeted step in that direction as it helps us ink another milestone in our growth trajectory. Not only that, the launch of the Sony ESPN cluster of channels validates our intent to provide stylized, high-quality and insightful international sporting content to viewers in India and across the Indian sub-continent.”
Mike Morrison, VP & General Manager, ESPN Asia Pacific, said, “The association is a long-term one. The idea behind collaborating with SPN was the matching mission of SPN and ESPN which is to serve sports fans everywhere around the world. We have a partner who shares the same focus.”
Morrison also mentioned that later this year, the collaboration between SPN and ESPN will witness the launch of a multi-sport digital website and an app that will complement the Sony ESPN channels, as well as the existing leadership of ESPNcricinfo and Sony Liv’s digital offerings.
He further said, “For more than 35 years, ESPN has been known for its quality, personality and authority. The launch of these channels and the complimentary digital properties in the months ahead, creates a world-class multi-media stage on which the combined expertise and resources of our two companies can deliver amazing content and products to Indian fans.”
Prasana Krishnan, EVP & Business Head, Sports Cluster, Sony Pictures Networks India, said, “ESPN has always had a strong connect with Indian audiences. Our partnership with ESPN will further strengthen our sports bouquet with four channels – Sony ESPN, Sony ESPN HD, Sony Six and Sony Six HD. Our programming line-up starts with the Australian Open followed by marquee football properties like Liga BBVA, Serie A TIM and FA CUP leading to UEFA EURO 2016 will give every sports fan a reason to celebrate our extensive offering clubbed with analysis presented by expert panellists.”
Stressing that Indian’s today are open to watching sports other than cricket, the channel will currently experiment with select sports and then expand into localizing the content. Krishnan pointed out, “Nearly one-third of the total viewership of sports is coming from non-cricket sports.”
On the marketing front, Krishnan said, “We will have a 360 degree marketing campaign starting today. Our digital campaign will go live followed by TVCs across our network. We will leverage the usage of print at the moment followed by outdoor and other media.”
While brands are yet to partner with the Australian Open, the channel is likely to close a few deals before the channel goes live.
Ramesh Kumar, Vice-president, ESPN India and South Asia, commented, “This launch is a great day for Indian sports fans. The launch of Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD channels is a first step as part of our collaboration with SPN, coming at a time when the sports media landscape in India is expanding and consumer demand for quality content is on the rise. We’re thrilled to be working with the team at SPN and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.”