As ESPN turns to Fox, expect more local Indian sports programming
While Star will have plenty of cricket to broadcast, the channel wants to create a portfolio that covers football, golf, tennis, motor racing, hockey, and add local Indian programming as well.
While Fox Sports is already being beamed into over 100 million households across 16 countries in Asia instead of ESPN, it is be a different story in India. According to Sanjay Gupta, the chief operating officer of Star India, the ESPN brand name will continue to be used for some time as the company decides “whether to rebrand the ESPN channel with a STAR brand name, which is well-entrenched in India, or to adopt the Fox Sports name as is the case in the rest of Asia.”
Beyond the branding though, Star India has plans to introduce a wider variety of sports for the Indian sports fan, who has “become quite discerning and is consuming a lot of sports outside of the traditional favourite – cricket,” Gupta told Firstpost in an email.
Of course, Star does have plenty of cricket. It bought the six-year rights to Indian cricket for Rs. 3,851 crores in 2012 and has the ICC international cricket rights as well, plus the rights to cricket in Australia and England. But the channel is “looking at creating a well-rounded portfolio of sporting properties covering key sports like soccer, golf, tennis, motor racing, hockey etc”, Gupta said.
There will also possibly be more of an emphasis on local sports programming in India. “We are also very excited about local sports programming in India, Gupta said. “Our investment in the on-going Hockey India League is an example and we will continue to put our resources and energies behind other sporting properties in the future as well.”
On 29 January, Fox International announced that News Corp, which bought out ESPN from their joint-venture last November, has rebranded ESPN-Star Sports as Fox Sports across Asia.
In addition to the flagship Fox Sports channel, there will be a high-definition channel Fox Sports Plus (HD); the 24-7 sports news channel, Fox Sports News; the broadband network, Fox Sports Play and the mobile service, Fox Sports Mobile, the statement said.
However, in India STAR Sports, STAR Cricket and Star Cricket HD channels will remain unchanged.
The change in brand means there will some changes to the programming as well. Fox’s sports news programme, Fox Sports Central, will replace SportsCenter and will be aired on weeknights. It is not yet clear if the Fox news show will be available in India.
Even the suspended IPL T20 is resumed by the BCCI, the advertisers will also have the flexibility to opt out from their ad deals.
The BCCI on Tuesday decided to indefinitely suspend the lucrative T20 cricket event due to a COVID-19 outbreak in its bio-bubble.