News Corporation will buy out ESPN's 50% share in ESPN STAR Sports (ESS)*, a joint venture between the two companies that broadcasts sports in Asia. The announcement, made on Wednesday, ends a 16-year association and means News Corporation will own all ESS business in Asia.
ESS, which currently runs 28 networks across various Asian markets, will continue to be managed by the two companies until the transaction is completed. At present, it holds the rights to telecast cricket played in Australia and England, and ICC tournaments, in Asia. In addition, Star recently acquired the rights to Indian cricket for five years.
Manu Sawhney, managing director of ESS, will transition his role to Peter Hutton, currently senior vice-president of sports for FOX International Channels (FIC). Sawhney will stay with the company until August 31 to work with Hutton on a smooth transition.
John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, said ESPN had decided to independently pursue future opportunities in Asia. "Now with the growing digital landscape in Asia, we look forward to continuing to serve Asian sports fans through ESPN-branded digital businesses like ESPNcricinfo, the leading digital cricket brand in the world, ESPNFC and ESPN Mobile."
James Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer and chairman & chief executive international of News Corporation, said owning all of ESS' properties would strengthen their "position in sports programming in emerging markets."
*ESPN STAR Sports is a 50:50 joint venture between Walt Disney (ESPN, Inc.), the parent company of ESPNcricinfo, and News Corporation Limited (STAR)