ESPN back on Indian television after three years with Sony ESPN

By Shweta Mulki , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | January 12, 2016
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Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD to go live on January 17.

Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), in collaboration with ESPN, has announced the launch of its two new channels, Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD. The new channels will go live on January 17. With this launch, ESPN is back on the Indian television screens after a gap of three years.

SPN will now have four channels in its sports cluster - Sony ESPN, Sony ESPN HD, Sony SIX and Sony SIX HD. The collaboration between SPN and ESPN is across television and digital platforms. As announced by the Sony team earlier in October 2015, a new multi-sport digital website, and an app will complement the channels, as well as the cricket-centric website ESPNcricinfo and Sony LIV's digital offerings.

L to R: Prasana Krishnan. NP Singh, Mike Morrison and Ramesh Kumar

At an event marking the launch of the channels, N P Singh, chief executive officer, Sony Pictures Networks India, said, "We've aggressively been acquiring a lot of sports content. Since, ESPN also wanted to get back into the market, and we were looking at expanding our sports portfolio, we got together. The launch of the Sony ESPN cluster of channels validates our intent to provide stylised, high-quality and insightful international sporting content to viewers in India and across the Indian sub-continent."

Prasana Krishnan, executive vice-president and business head, sports cluster, Sony Pictures Networks India, says, "It's a matter of great pride for us to bring back the ESPN brand as it has always had a strong connect with Indian audiences. There are a lot of expectations from a programming perspective, and we promise to fulfil that.

Krishnan further added, "We will start off with the Australian Open and that will be an immediate example of the different standard that ESPN brings into the market. This will be followed by marquee football properties like Liga BBVA, Serie A TIM and FA CUP and the UEFA EURO 2016."

Commenting on sports other than cricket, Krishnan said, "There is definitely a market emerging for local leagues besides the Indian Premier League (IPL). The Pro Wrestling League has already become a phenomenon in the northern markets. There are different opportunities in different markets, and there will be different strategies focussed towards cricket, as well as local leagues. At the same time, we want to cater to the fan base that global sports offerings have."

According to Krishnan, almost one third of the sports viewership comes from non-cricket sports. "The base of growth is huge and there is a large business opportunity," he said.

Mike Morrison, vice-president and general manager, ESPN Asia-Pacific, said, "For more than 35 years, ESPN has been known for its quality, personality and authority. We never really left India -- we've been here for over 20 years with ESPNcricinfo, and we've been very strong and established in this market."

Morrison also said that both Sony and ESPN shared the characteristic of a consistent focus on technology to improve viewing experience, and that it will show in the quality of pictures and television coverage.

Ramesh Kumar, vice-president, ESPN India and South Asia, said, "This launch is a great day for Indian sports fans. The launch of Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD channels is the first step as part of our collaboration with SPN, coming at a time when the sports media landscape in India is expanding and consumers demand for quality content is on the rise."

The Sony ESPN channels will kick-off their sporting calendar with the live broadcast of the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open. Besides, UEFA Euro 2016, 2018 FIFA World Cup La Liga BBVA, Serie A TIM, the programming line-up will also include the Emirates FA Cup, UEFA European Qualifiers for 2018 WC, FIFA Futsal World Cup 2016, Hopman Cup, Mubadala World Tennis Championship, Champions Tennis League, UFC, NFL, ATP 1000, ATP 500, ATP 250 and ATP World Tour Finals.

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