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Two way battle for live sports in India: Sony to acquire TEN Sports from Zee for $385 million


Looks like the sports broadcasting business in India is in for some competition, and it’s going to be a two way battle between Sony and STAR: Sony Pictures Networks India is buying TEN Sports and its portfolio of channels from the Zee group company Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited.

With this, Zee exits the Sports broadcasting business which reported a loss of Rs 37.2 crores on revenues of Rs 631 crores for the company, for the financial year ended 31st March 2016. Zee intends to focus on “broadcast, digital, films, live events and international business.”

Here’s what’s being bought:

  1. Channels: TEN 1, TEN 1 HD, TEN 2, TEN 3, TEN Golf HD, TEN Cricket, TEN Sports
  2. Operating in territories: the Indian sub-continent, Maldives, Singapore, Hong Kong, Middle East, Caribbean.
  3. Rights:
    1. Cricket Rights: Cricket boards including South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe
    2. Football rights: UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, French League, English Football League Cup
    3. Tennis Rights: WTA Events, ATP events
    4. Golf Rights: European Tour, Asian Tour, Ryder Cup, US PGA Championship, LPGA Tour, Professional Golf Tour of India and Golf Channel Block
    5. Athletics Rights: Asian Games, Commonwealth Games), motor sports (Moto GP) and cycling (Tour de France) events.
    6. Others: wrestling (WWE)

Zee owned these channels and rights via two subsidiaries: Taj TV Ltd, Mauritius (which owns global rights, including for the five Cricket boards mentioned), and Taj Television (India) Pvt Ltd (which is an agent for downlinking, marketing and ad sales for channels owned by Taj TV Ltd). The business is being bought by Aqua Holding Investments Pvt Ltd, Mauritius, and MSM Asia Ltd, UK. The sale is expected to be completed in 4-5 months.

Sony already has properties including IPL, CPL for Cricket, football (FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia, UEFA Euro 2016, FIFA World Events including FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 in India, European and South American Qualifiers for FIFA WC 2018, FIFA Confederations Cup, LaLiga, Serie A, FA Cup, Copa America Centenario, International Champions Cup), tennis (Australian Open, ATP 1000 and 500 World Tour Events, Champions Tennis League), fight sports (TNA, UFC, Pro Wrestling League),
basketball (NBA) as well as NFL and Premier Futsal.

The competition with Star

Star India has media and digital rights for the French Open in India and the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) for the period 2017-2021. It also holds the rights to broadcast ICC events for eight years (2015 to 2023), which includes 18 ICC tournaments, including two ICC Cricket World Cups (2019 and 2023), two ICC Champions Trophy tournaments (2017 and 2021) and two ICC World Twenty20 tournaments (2016 and 2020).

It also has global media rights for Asia Cup from 2016 to 2023. Apart from this it holds the digital rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017, through its subsidiary Novi Digital Entertainment Pvt Ltd. Star India had also acquired the TV, Internet and mobile rights for the Bundesliga in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives for a 5-year period (2015-16 to 2019-20).

Apart from this Star, has also built several Indian sports properties, including in Kabaddi, Badminton, Hockey, Tennis and football. With Sony beefing up its sports portfolio, expect the battle over rights to escalate from here on.

Why live sports matters

While it probably hasn’t reached scale in India yet, viewing of entertainment content is now asynchronous: people are moving towards watching content when they have time, instead of synchronous viewing on TV. There are, exceptions of course, but the norm is changing with users even choosing to binge watch entire seasons at a stretch. Live content is best suited for appointment viewing: where advertisers are likely to get a substantive number of viewers for their content at a single time, and lends itself to conversations afterwards: both viewership metrics (TRPs) and engagement associated with live sports is likely to be high. This is why Star isn’t just buying rights: by creating new properties like Kabaddi, it is also creating rights. Lets see if Sony follows suit.

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