Olympics to drive 21st Century Fox in the sub-continent

21st Century Fox’s subscription-TV business STAR India has been awarded the broadcast rights by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic Games and the Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing next year.

While 21st Century Fox’s US business FOX missed out on the last rounds of Olympic rights for the American market to long-time broadcaster NBC, the announcement by STAR India reaffirms 21st Century Fox’s apparent strategy of using key sporting properties to drive its various subscription-TV businesses across the world.

Similar to the TEN Network’s deal in Australia for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, STAR India has acquired the rights to all media platforms, including free-to-air television, subscription television, internet and mobile. The rights deal covers seven territories including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

In a change of strategy for the IOC, it did not sell the broadcast rights on a pan-Asia basis to an organisation such as the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. IOC Finance Commission Chairman Richard Carrión, who led the negotiations, said:

“Traditionally the IOC has negotiated broadcast rights on a pan-Asian basis; however, the media landscape is changing and we have adapted our approach recently by negotiating directly in certain markets. We are very pleased to have reached this agreement directly with STAR India.”

There are no details yet on whether STAR will launch dedicated Olympic channels (like FOXTEL (50% owned by News Corp Australia) did for the 2012 London Olympics) or use its existing sports channels ESPN STAR to broadcast the Games. ESPN STAR was a 50:50 JV between Disney’s ESPN and News Corp’s STAR, but News Corp (prior to the 21st Century Fox/New News Corp split) bought out Disney’s share in the JV. It is also possible that STAR will on-sell rights to other broadcasters in the various territories it has purchased rights for.

For Australian fans, there is still no word about a broadcaster for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with the IOC to date only signing the TEN Network for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.


IOC awards broadcast rights for seven countries in South Asia

STAR India

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