20 September 2018 last updated at 11:26 GMT
 
Disney-Fox deal adds intrigue to Indian sports broadcasting market
Saturday 16 December 2017

Disney-Fox deal adds intrigue to Indian sports broadcasting market
With the takeover of 21st Century Fox by Disney, ESPN has now entered the equation
One of the most shuddering prospects for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been that of Uday Shankar of Star and NP Singh of Sony tacitly joining hands and deciding to discreetly divide Indian cricket's properties between them. In a market with only two players, that would have been a death knell for the BCCI rights, and on quite a few occasions in the past, board officials expressed apprehension of such a coalition.
In such a scenario, however hypothetical or inconceivable it may be, the value of Indian cricket media rights would plummet to the point it cannot be imagined. With the takeover of 21st Century Fox by Disney, a third party, ESPN, has entered the equation, but the chances of the BCCI's fears coming true are more than ever before.
ESPN, the flagship sports channel of Disney in the US, can now share content with Star Sports, the premier sports broadcaster in India. Concurrently, it also has a long-term pact with Sony. Though Star and Sony have not come together, there is a common thread that is linking the two which may well be cause for some worry for the Indian cricket authorities. There may be a reason for the BCCI to seek clarity before it goes public with the sale of Indian cricket rights next month.
That said, how else can the deal impact Indian television in general and Indian sport in particular? Just like in the past, the Star Sport channels may be called ESPN-Star once again. As there is already Sony-ESPN, alternatively, the Star channels may be called Disney Star. That, admittedly, is only a cosmetic change.
In reality, the sports content will remain the same. Because in India, Disney does not have a huge presence. Barring a few entertainment (Hungama, Bindaas, UTV) and children's channels (Disney), there is nothing for Disney to offer to Star India, which has over 60 channels in different languages. In reality, it will be a sort of inverted takeover, which means Disney will merge with Star. In that sense, there will, however, be no impact on the IPL. It will be beamed on Star, Disney-Star or ESPN-Star.
In all likelihood, Uday Shankar, the Star India chairman and CEO, will be the point man for Disney not just in India but Asia as well. After his surprise acquisition of the IPL rights a couple of months ago, Uday was promoted as Asia head by Rupert Murdoch, the owner of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Star India.
The western media reports say Disney has offered something that, proverbially, the Murdochs could not refuse. But the reality could be something else. The talk in the Indian broadcast market is Disney's valuation of Fox went up after Star acquired the IPL rights, arguably the most lucrative cricket property. Having bought the IPL rights for Rs 16,000 crores, Murdoch has already got its value by selling Star India to Disney. Converted into Indian rupees, the $52 billion Disney-Fox deal is roughly worth Rs 3.35 lakh crore.
Since the reports of the mega deal started appearing in the US media a month ago, Star officials have been silent. An otherwise articulate Uday too has been avoiding the media. He had been to the US recently but has not spoken much.
Yesterday, Uday held an internal meeting with the heads of different channels in the Star office in the 40-floor Urmi Chambers in Lower Parel and urged them to be quiet about the whole deal. A top Star official was at a football forum in the city yesterday but she quietly left the meeting after presenting her paper on the Indian Super League.
However, the day after the deal was announced, Murdoch wrote to the employees stating the launch of a new Fox and coming together of Disney and Fox. He has also confirmed that Star India will go to Disney but assured the staff that the merger will not affect their employment.
"While we do not yet know what these future changes will mean for our talented colleagues, we can tell you this: we are deeply committed to finding opportunities for our people as well as ensuring that anyone impacted is well taken care of," he wrote.
Many Indian broadcast experts differ on how the deal will play out once the merger is complete, the timeframe for which is about 18 months. But everyone agrees that the deal has made heads turn, not just in India but also in the world.
There is an aside to the deal. The Simpsons, a long-running animation show, had predicted about 20 years ago that Walt Disney will take over Fox. The episode was aired on November 8, 1998. Interestingly, the American sitcom is a Fox production.

One of the most shuddering prospects for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been that of Uday Shankar of Star and NP Singh of Sony tacitly joining hands and deciding to discreetly divide Indian cricket's properties between them. In a market with only two players, that would have been a death knell for the BCCI rights, and on quite a few occasions in the past, board officials expressed apprehension of such a coalition.

In such a scenario, however hypothetical or inconceivable it may be, the value of Indian cricket media rights would plummet to the point it cannot be imagined. With the takeover of 21st Century Fox by Disney, a third party, ESPN, has entered the equation, but the chances of the BCCI's fears coming true are more than ever before.

ESPN, the flagship sports channel of Disney in the US, can now share content with Star Sports, the premier sports broadcaster in India. Concurrently, it also has a long-term pact with Sony. Though Star and Sony have not come together, there is a common thread that is linking the two which may well be cause for some worry for the Indian cricket authorities. There may be a reason for the BCCI to seek clarity before it goes public with the sale of Indian cricket rights next month.

That said, how else can the deal impact Indian television in general and Indian sport in particular? Just like in the past, the Star Sport channels may be called ESPN-Star once again. As there is already Sony-ESPN, alternatively, the Star channels may be called Disney Star. That, admittedly, is only a cosmetic change.

In reality, the sports content will remain the same. Because in India, Disney does not have a huge presence. Barring a few entertainment (Hungama, Bindaas, UTV) and children's channels (Disney), there is nothing for Disney to offer to Star India, which has over 60 channels in different languages. In reality, it will be a sort of inverted takeover, which means Disney will merge with Star. In that sense, there will, however, be no impact on the IPL. It will be beamed on Star, Disney-Star or ESPN-Star.

In all likelihood, Uday Shankar, the Star India chairman and CEO, will be the point man for Disney not just in India but Asia as well. After his surprise acquisition of the IPL rights a couple of months ago, Uday was promoted as Asia head by Rupert Murdoch, the owner of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Star India.

The western media reports say Disney has offered something that, proverbially, the Murdochs could not refuse. But the reality could be something else. The talk in the Indian broadcast market is Disney's valuation of Fox went up after Star acquired the IPL rights, arguably the most lucrative cricket property. Having bought the IPL rights for Rs 16,000 crores, Murdoch has already got its value by selling Star India to Disney. Converted into Indian rupees, the $52 billion Disney-Fox deal is roughly worth Rs 3.35 lakh crore.

Since the reports of the mega deal started appearing in the US media a month ago, Star officials have been silent. An otherwise articulate Uday too has been avoiding the media. He had been to the US recently but has not spoken much.Yesterday, Uday held an internal meeting with the heads of different channels in the Star office in the 40-floor Urmi Chambers in Lower Parel and urged them to be quiet about the whole deal. A top Star official was at a football forum in the city yesterday but she quietly left the meeting after presenting her paper on the Indian Super League.

However, the day after the deal was announced, Murdoch wrote to the employees stating the launch of a new Fox and coming together of Disney and Fox. He has also confirmed that Star India will go to Disney but assured the staff that the merger will not affect their employment.

"While we do not yet know what these future changes will mean for our talented colleagues, we can tell you this: we are deeply committed to finding opportunities for our people as well as ensuring that anyone impacted is well taken care of," he wrote.

Many Indian broadcast experts differ on how the deal will play out once the merger is complete, the timeframe for which is about 18 months. But everyone agrees that the deal has made heads turn, not just in India but also in the world.

There is an aside to the deal. The Simpsons, a long-running animation show, had predicted about 20 years ago that Walt Disney will take over Fox. The episode was aired on November 8, 1998. Interestingly, the American sitcom is a Fox production.

(Courtesy: Mumbai Mirror)

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