June 6, 2012 / 10:41 AM / 6 years ago

News Corp buys Disney stake in Asian sports JV

(Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has taken full control of its Asian joint venture ESPN STAR Sports (ESS), buying out Walt Disney Co’s 50 percent share to end a 16-year partnership in the region.

ESS has rights to this year’s Olympics in London and also screens Formula One motor races, another of the top attractions in global sport. News Corp has a long history of using sports rights to drive growth of its TV operations.

“News Corporation’s acquisition of the interest of ESS that we did not already own ... furthers our commitment to delivering incredible sports programming to consumers across the globe, and particularly enhancing our position in sports programming in emerging markets,” said James Murdoch, News Corp’s deputy chief operating officer.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Peter Hutton, senior vice president of sports for News Corp’s FOX International Channels, will take over as managing director of ESS.

He will succeed Manu Sawhney, who will stay on until the end of August, after the Olympics, having worked for the venture since it was set up.

“After 16 years jointly managing ESS, we have decided to independently pursue future opportunities in Asia,” said John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks.

“With the growing digital landscape in Asia, we look forward to continuing to serve Asian sports fans through ESPN-branded digital businesses like ESPNCricinfo, the leading digital cricket brand in the world, ESPNFC and ESPN Mobile.”

ESS operates 28 broadcast networks in 24 Asian countries, including a number focused on cricket, one of the biggest sports in the region.

It agreed a new seven-year deal on Monday with the England and Wales Cricket Board to broadcast England home games in Asia and North Africa.

Reporting by Keith Weir; Editing by David Holmes and Hans-Juergen Peters

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