ESPN STAR to air 2010 World Cup

Unit wins Indian rights to FIFA soccer matches

HONG KONG — ESPN STAR Sports has won rights for the Indian sub-continent through 2010 to the international soccer matches controlled by the Federation Internationale de Football Association. Package includes the 2010 World Cup, one of the world’s most watched sports events.

Cost of the package was not disclosed, but FIFA prexy Sepp Blatter described it as “a record deal in (the) Indian market.” Recent years has seen value of soccer rights hit new highs throughout soccer-mad China and South East Asia. Indian sports viewing, however, is traditionally dominated by cricket, though European football has made some inroads. FIFA says the 2006 World Cup, also carried by ESPN STAR Sports, was watched by over 50 million people in India, a 44% increase on the 2002 competish.

ESPN STAR Sports, which is a joint venture between Disney and News Corp.’s STAR group, gets to screen 275 matches in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal. Company will also “bring other premier FIFA World Cup events for men, women, youth, Futsal and Beach Soccer.” It will show all 64 World Cup matches live accompanied by English and Hindi commentary.

“This agreement is a testament to our commitment of building the game of football by presenting it in the most innovative and entertaining manner to millions of fans in the Indian subcontinent,” Manu Sawhney, ESPN STAR Sports’ MD, said.

ESPN STAR Sports also carried the recent UEFA Euro 2008 in the Indian subcontinent and also has rights to the English Premier League, (English) FA Cup and the Spanish Primera Liga.

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