By Colin Mann
News Corporation is to take full control of ESPN STAR Sports (ESS). News Corp and ESPN have entered into a definitive agreement under which a unit of News Corporation will buy ESPN’s 50 per cent equity interest in the service. The transaction will allow News Corporation units to own and operate all of the ESS businesses while providing ESPN more independence and flexibility in future support of The Walt Disney Company’s overall efforts in Asia.
The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals and ESS will continue to be jointly managed by the two companies until the transaction closes.
“News Corporation’s acquisition of the interest of ESS that we did not already own continues the programme of simplifying our operating model, consolidating our affiliate ownership structures, and furthers our commitment to delivering incredible sports programming to consumers across the globe, and particularly enhancing our position in sports programming in emerging markets,” said James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Chairman and CEO International, News Corporation.
“After 16 years jointly managing ESS, we have decided to independently pursue future opportunities in Asia,” said John Skipper, President of ESPN and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks. “We are extremely proud of our role in building ESS into what it is today, and 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.”
News of the deal follows the disclosure that ESS had paid a record $200 million to secure the TV rights to the English international and club matches covered by the England & Wales Cricket Board. The rights extend for seven years to 2019. The previous five-year deal cost ESPN Star Sports just $80 million.
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