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ESPN Refocuses For Digital Growth

ESPN is sharpening its focus on revenue opportunities in Asia, after dividing up responsibility for North and Southeast Asia between two regional heads.

Joyee Biswas, former MD of Eleven Sports, is overseeing Southeast Asia, succeeding Kelly Cooke who has moved to Hong Kong to take up a new role within the company as North Asia GM.

Both report to APAC MD Mike Morrison who relocated from New York to Shanghai in June as a result of a five-year content and licensing agreement with Tencent – including exclusive coverage and video produced by ESPN in the US – which commenced last year.

Cooke is also supporting the Tencent deal, a major pillar of Asian revenue alongside a licensing pact in India with Sony.

ESPN’s business focus in Asia and Europe has shifted from buying rights and running networks to managing digital and mobile properties while licensing its brand and content to local players.

Cooke’s former duties as APAC head of digital, a key area of growth, are also now shared between the regional heads.

Earlier this year, Marc Mallett relocated from ESPN’s US office to lead APAC sponsorship and ad sales with direct oversight of North and Southeast Asia, replacing Madeline Tan.

Digital localization

ESPN operates some popular English-language websites in Asia, including Cricinfo, which is run out of India under South Asia head Ramesh Kumar, and a Southeast Asian edition of ESPN FC.

In June, India became the first market worldwide to get a localized ESPN app, followed by similar launches in Latin America and the UK. These mirror local web editions of

India unveiled its localized site, co-managed with Sony, at the same time as its app. ESPN is also planning to rebuild and relaunch the Cricinfo app sometime next year.

Australia, where ESPN still runs a channels business under ANZ GM Haydn Arndt, should follow with a localized app in the next few months, after unveiling its localized site in March.

“We are really bullish on the idea of having fixed and multisport local editions,” Morrison tells Media Business Asia.

“We are assessing where else we can be doing that. With the increased traffic, footprint and availability of content and inventory, it made sense to further invest in ad sales and have Marc lead that.”

Morrison is also keen to ramp up branded content revenue, having run custom-made videos on ESPN FC in Southeast Asia for Chinese TV set maker, TCL.

The campaign, which went live in September, was the first of its kind for ESPN in the region.

The videos were made by ESPN’s in-house agency in New York, ESPN Creative Works. Local co-ordination was managed by Mallett and integrated marketing solutions lead Raymond Lau, who moved to Singapore from New York in February.

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