Star will soon start uplinking its sports channels from India. After waiting for more than a year, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch-controlled Twenty-First Century Fox has finally got the nod from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) to carry out such an exercise.
Besides receiving uplinking licences for its existing channels, Star India has also got MIB approval to launch three new sports channels.
Star has got uplinking licences for Star Sports 1, Star Sports 2, Star Sports 3, Star Sports 4, Star Sports HD1, Star Sports HD2 and ESPN (ESP News).
Additionally, it has got uplinking licences to launch three new channels namely ESPN HD, Star Sports Highlights and Star Cricket Asia. If one counts the ESP News licence that is lying dormant, Star effectively has got licences to launch four new channels.
Star India had until now only downlinking licences for its sports channels comprising four SD and two HD channels besides sports news channel Fox Sports News, which was shuttered earlier this year.
The seven downlinking licences, which are under ESPN Software India (now Star Sports India), will be surrendered to the MIB once the uplinking licences become operational.
Star India president sports Nitin Kukreja told TelevisionPost.com that the uplinking licences will be operationalised in the next few months. “We will start uplinking our channels from India now that we have got the ministry approval.”
Queried about the new channels that the broadcaster is planning to launch, Kukreja said nothing has been finalised. “We will launch channels as and when there is a need,” he added.
The broadcaster has been uplinking its sports channels from Singapore and Hong Kong. However, now these will be uplinked from its facility in Noida. It has been uplinking its entertainment channels from India since 2010–11.
While company officials are tight-lipped about the new channel launches, Star India COO had in an earlier interaction with TelevisionPost.com stated that it will launch HD and regional channels in sports. It is looking at regional sports channels in Bengali, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu.
Earlier last week, a Star India official had told TelevisionPost that the broadcaster will have multiple regional-language feeds for the upcoming 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup with a special thrust on South India.
“We have made huge investments in sports. We have plans to launch more channels in sports. A lot of things are in the planning stage,” said the Star official on condition of anonymity.
Star India has made huge investments in acquiring sports rights, particularly local sporting leagues. It has rights to Hockey India League, Indian Badminton League, Indian Super League (Football), Pro Kabaddi League and Super Fight League (mixed martial arts).
Some of the major properties that the sportscaster holds rights to include the BCCI, Cricket Australia, England Cricket Board, International Cricket Council, and Champions League T20 in Cricket, EPL, La Liga, Serie A, and FA Cup in Football, FIH in Hockey, Wimbledon in Tennis and Formula One and Moto GP in Motorsports.
Before Star, the sports broadcasting business in India was being run by ESPN Star Sports (ESS), an equal joint venture between News Corp (now Twenty-First Century Fox) and Walt Disney’s ESPN.
However, the JV was dismantled in 2012 with Murdoch’s Fox buying out ESPN’s 50 per cent stake for $335 million. Following the buy-out, Fox split its sports broadcasting business into two, with Uday Shankar-helmed Star India taking over the India business and Fox International Channels (FIC) getting control of the rest of Asia.
After getting the sports business, Star initiated a host of changes including rebranding the channels, launching a Hindi sports channel Star Sports 3 and an online sports destination Starsports.com.
The India unit was also renamed to Star Sports India from ESPN Software India with Nitin Kukreja becoming the head of the new entity. The ad sales and the marketing department also got new heads in Rajeev Beotra and Shubhranshu Singh.