Star Network, the media and entertainment firm owned by Rupert Murdoch, on Wednesday said it will invest more than Rs 20,000 crore to expand its sports coverage in India and has roped in cricket captain M S Dhoni as brand ambassador for its Star Sports channels.
The network also unveiled a new brand identity for Star Sports across six channels and has renamed all the ESPN channels, subsequent to the buyout of ESPN Inc's stake in their 16 years old joint venture ESPN STAR Sports (ESS).
"Star has made a commitment of more than Rs 20,000 crore into the sports business. The investment is being used to fuel expansion of sports coverage in the country and to build exciting new leagues, including the Indian Super League in football, the Hockey India League and the Indian Badminton League," Star Network said in a statement.
Commenting on the development, STAR India CEO Uday Shankar said: "Cricket is too big to be confined to just one channel. Today, we are redoubling our efforts to showcase the best of Indian and international cricket to the sports fan. The new brand is also about showcasing our commitment to other sports."
However, the company said cricket will continue to be its focus as it also brings in the best of other local and world sports such as soccer, hockey, badminton and tennis to India.
As part of the rebranding, six channels will now be under the umbrella Star Sports brand. The ESPN channel will now be named Star Sports 4 and ESPN HD will be Star Sports HD2. Star Cricket will be Star Sports 3.
Elaborating on the new brand strategy, the company said: "The brand highlights Star Network's ambition to change the face of sports broadcasting in India and provide world-class sports coverage to fans across the country."
In June last year, Star Network had announced that it will buy out ESPN Inc's stake in their 16 years old joint venture ESPN STAR Sports (ESS) to gain full control of the sports broadcaster. ESS was a 50:50 joint venture between News Corporation and ESPN, an arm of the Walt Disney Co.