ESPN Star Sports is the World Cup winner
India’s victory over co-host Sri Lanka in the championship match of the Intl. Cricket Council’s quadrennial World Cup sparked an all-night celebration across the winning country that felt like the biggest street party in the world.
India’s April 2 win — its first in 28 years — was also cause for rejoicing at broadcaster ESPN Star Sports. The net paid $1.1 billion for global telecast rights for ICC matches from 2007 to 2015, and ESPN’s advertising revenue from India alone, just for this year’s World Cup, is estimated at $180 million.
The final was watched by 67.6 million cable and satellite homes, according to television ratings agency aMap, edging out the 67.3 million who watched India’s semifinal win against arch-rival Pakistan.
Given that in India, ESPN Star Sports shares cricket broadcast rights with pubcaster Doordarshan, which reaches 91% of the country’s 1.21 billion population, the actual viewership figure is likely close to a billion.
While cricket is hugely popular on the subcontinent and in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, U.K., Ireland and the Caribbean, the sport has yet to translate to the U.S.
In an attempt to change that, ESPN3 has acquired from ESPN Star Sports exclusive U.S. rights to all ICC events from 2012 to 2015, including the 2015 World Cup. This will add more than 1,000 hours of live cricket to its lineup.
“This deal signals a real sea-change in the mainstream exposure of cricket to American viewers,” says ESPN Star Sports managing director Manu Sawhney. “Hopefully, this will be a catalyst for huge growth (of cricket there).”
If it is, there will be more celebrating in store at ESPN.