January 17, 2016

Those four red letters are back on TV in India

What the launch of SONYESPN means for you and ESPNcricinfo

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For many years we have been producing a sports diary in India as a little New Year present for friends and associates, and in return we receive some charming notes about how much they love it. But in 2014, this message popped on my Facebook timeline. It was from a former employee of ESPNStar, a prominent figure on the sports-management circuit. It read:

"I am not a big one for brands, but ESPN is different. To not be able to switch on a television set [in India] and see the ESPN logo really disturbed me at some level. And then Cricinfo's 2014 diary arrived… it's just so reassuring to see those 4 letters in red"

It has stayed with me not merely because it was unusual but for the wider truth it conveyed. To us, it was a reaffirmation of what we feel in our bones.

There are some brands that are successful; some are admired and some loved. ESPN, I'd say at the risk of self-indulgence, is one of the rare brands that ticks every box. The fact that it is a sports brand helps: connecting people to what they love and making them feel good about it is good business.

But sport is not merely business at ESPN. It is at the core of what we do. "Serving sports fans" is not just a powerful mission statement but a job description. And because we love sport ourselves, our job feels like a gift. It is inevitable that this should radiate and touch everyone else in our world. For many, ESPN becomes, organically, part of the sporting life.

In the truest sense, ESPN never left Indian shores. Eight years ago, Cricinfo found a natural home in the ESPN family, and ESPNcricinfo has been headquartered in cricket's real home ever since.

When the ESPN logo disappeared off television screens in this region sometime towards the end of 2013, the intent was always to return. A 2014 survey of the multisport audience in India showed that 92% of Indian sports fans associated ESPN with sports coverage, and 57% had remained faithful followers on digital and social media. And they perceived ESPN to be a top international specialist in sport, best in class, and a trendsetter. Not getting back on television screens in this part of the world was never an option; it only took us this long because we were obliged to honour our commitment to the terms of separation from our previous partner.

So, to my friend, and to all those who love sport: those four letters are now back, with the values and commitment to sports coverage they represent, sitting snugly alongside the name of our new collaborator.

Sony and the IPL go hand in hand, of course, but the Sony sports channels also host the FIFA World Cup, La Liga, Euro football, and the Australian Open. SONYESPN SD and HD channels go on air with the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Sporting Gijon today. The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, will follow soon.

This is also an opportunity for ESPNcricinfo to extend its reach to television. Video has become an elementary and vital part of our storytelling and analysis on the website, and during the last World Cup, our Match Point show from Sydney harbour was broadcast on ESPN channels around the world. It is natural that an ESPNcricinfo show should become a regular on SONYESPN.

Soon we will launch a multisport Indian edition of ESPN.com, co-branded with SONYESPN. It will bring together gold-standard coverage of international sport from ESPN platforms, live streaming and highlights from Sony for some events, and eventually, the ESPNcricinfo brand of coverage for other sports of interest to fans in India and the subcontinent. Combining ESPNcricinfo's digital platforms, the India edition of espn.com, and the SONYESPN television channels, we will further deliver on our stated intent of "serving sports fans anytime, anywhere".

More about that later. For the moment, join us in celebrating the return to living rooms of a much-loved sporting companion.

Sambit Bal is editor-in-chief of ESPNcricinfo. @sambitbal

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Santhosh on January 24, 2016, 18:09 GMT

    Sambit, is ESPN a bigger Brand than... Wisden? Do you think CricInfo commentary should be replaced with Live Video?

  •   Ahmed Shahad on January 23, 2016, 17:34 GMT

    I m a great sports fan from Kerala,india... But I can rarely see any different sports rather than cricket,soccer,tennis..I would love to see American sports leagues such as NFL,NHL,MLB,NBA to telecast in Sony espn

  • Sudhakar on January 21, 2016, 11:04 GMT

    I live in France, and there is no live coverage of any of the cricket matches on either TV or the Internet these days. About an year and a half ago, there was substantial coverage provided via Willow TV, and for some reason this stopped! Most websites that offer live streaming services like StarSport.com or SonyMax stopped coverage to Continental Europe. The reasons are beyond my comprehension. I hope ESPN takes a different approach and starts streaming cricket matches to Continental Europe as well.

  • Cricinfouser on January 21, 2016, 9:23 GMT

    I have one question to the editor who has extolled the brand value of ESPN with a rare passion and conviction. How come articles on cricket related to Indian cricketers as well as how the game is played in India does not cover nuances like the articles which appeared on Australian Cricket [how Langer is taking his team to the third successive final of Big Bash] on English Cricket [why Wright and Peterson should be included in the team for T20WC2016]on SA Cricket [what SA batsman has to do to break the low scoring situation they are facing] or even coverage of Pak cricket. Is it because of lack of authentic cricket writers in our country or that the writers get very fat remuneration that they are complacent (compensation vis a vis other professions in our country).

  • Mohsin on January 21, 2016, 9:20 GMT

    Yes bring Sportscenter back. Have got bored watching Superstars, StarPower & Cheeky singles. @ IndianBarcaFan wrote"What is ridiculous is when you automatically assume that anything coming from Western world is full of quality and everything Indian is substandard". Everything Indian in Sports broadcasting & TV content is surely substandard. Your username also suggests so. How ridiculous it is when Star Sports prefers repeating one of the above cricket shows/cricket highlights instead of showing live action of Semis & Finals of Masters tournaments of Tennis or F1 or other sports after acquiring rights for those tournaments, that too when u hav 4 channels to broadcast them? Why show the same old stuff instead of live action? The hero worship of cricketers & heavy promotion of the tournaments like Pro Kabaddi League that Star Sports indulges in just becoz they are sponsors of Indian cricket jersey or sponsors of PKL is cringeworthy...Contd

  • Mohsin on January 20, 2016, 23:03 GMT

    Contd...A cricket fan of the late 90s/00s can easily make out d difference in broadcast quality of ESPN- Star earlier & Star Sports now just by watching the mid- & post-match cricket shows & commercials betwn d overs. Thank goodness, we've been spared of shows like AR Ashwin, Swinging Shami, Outstanding Ojha after viewers came down heavily & took to social media to vent their anger towards the channels.

  • VENKATACHALAM on January 20, 2016, 10:53 GMT

    Will be great if "live video chat shows" on Espn Cricinfo website is simultaneously telecast on TV in Sony ESPn. Also, would like the daily "Sportscenter" to return to Indian TV screens. I always loved it.

  • Jayaesh on January 19, 2016, 15:02 GMT

    @EASHWARSAI: I know you clarified and refereed it as certain Indian-Ameicans like yourself but generally speaking here in India difference is chalk and cheese, La Liga,EPL,Other major European football clubs have a following in millions compared to few thousand for NFL. TV companies paid in excess of 100 million Euros for EPL,La Liga TV rights while NFL TV rights go for a fraction of that amount .Besides Cricket Football,Kabaddi,Grandslam Tennis,Badminton,Hockey enjoy good viewership and that's why sports channels show more of these sports compared to Pro American sports.Funnily enough if one is wiling to count WWE as a sport then it is the one which provides highest TV ratings every week !!!

  • sai on January 19, 2016, 10:49 GMT

    I hope Sony ESPN shows the rest of the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl as per the plan. Especially now that we are going to see a Brady/Manning faceoff. I tried watching the Packers game on Sunday morning and they were showing La Liga highlights instead. American Football has more connection to the many Indians like me who lived or are still living in America and more coverage of American sports wouldn't hurt. They don't have to show football(soccer), 80% of the time. Other than that, great too see ESPN back in India.

  • Ruturaj on January 18, 2016, 16:55 GMT

    Add me to the list of Indian cricket lovers who want to watch New Zealand's home matches. Look, the thought of Aus tour of NZ not being telecast in India is simply scary. NZ is the best team to watch in the world and it is unfair to deprive cricket fans of watching Kane Williamson grind out centuries on picturesque grounds.

    Other than that, it is good to hear that ESPN is back in India. Looking forward to improved quality of sports coverage and knowledgeable TV show hosts. No shows like Star's 'Cheeky Singles' please.

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