Sunday, August 11, 2019

America's struggling sports brand ESPN returning to South Africa and Africa after 6 years as Disney rebrands the Fox Networks Group's Fox Sports channels after 5 years on StarSat and Cell C black to ESPN on 30 August.

America's struggling sports channel brand ESPN from Disney is returning to South Africa and Africa that it dumped 6 years ago, through a corporate rebranding order under which the Fox Sport channels from the Fox Networks Group will be changed to Disney's ESPN.

As part of the ongoing international restructuring of its combined channel portfolios following The Walt Disney's takeover of 21st Century Fox, Fox Sports (StarSat 244 / Cell C black 401) and Fox Sports 2 (StarSat 245 / Cell C black 402) will flip to ESPN and ESPN2 from 30 August 2019 as part of Disney's backdoor rebranding and channels consolidation alignment.

China's StarTimes running its satellite pay-TV service as StarSat in South Africa added Fox Sports and Fox Sports 2 in August 2014, with Cell C that added the Fox Sports channels as linear TV channels to it subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service when it launched in December 2017.

Now Fox's Fox Sports brand is getting culled after a 5-year presence in the South African and sub-Saharan Africa territory and replaced by ESPN.

Disney and ESPN dumped South Africa and Africa 6 years ago in July 2013 when ESPN and ESPN Classic when Disney abruptly pulled the channels from MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service leaving DStv subscribers angry and upset.

In mid-May 2012 Disney pre-warned that it would cut ESPN internationally as a result of the growing cost of acquiring live sports rights and that ESPN can't afford, or isn't willing to pay what it takes to broadcast sports internationally.

Bob Iger, the Walt Disney chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) told investors "that the opportunities for ESPN is limited internationally" and that "ESPN's international business has never been particularly large, nor has it been a huge priority for the company".

Now Disney is bringing ESPN back by flipping the Fox Sports lid to ESPN since it owns 21st Century Fox, which owns Fox Sports.

ESPN will add some new sports while the Fox Sports-now-ESPN channels will continue to show content from the English Football League Championship, Dutch Eredivisie, Scottish Premiership, Turkish Super Lig, Belgian Pro League, Major League Soccer (MLS), Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Professional Fighters League (PFL).

Frank Rutten, who was the executive vice president for sports at Fox Networks Group and now oversees the rebranded ESPN for Europe and Africa, in a supplied statement says "Rebranding as ESPN is a natural transition following the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by The Walt Disney Company".

"The ESPN brand is synonymous with sports, is one of the most valuable brands in the world and has an established global reach."

Christine Service, senior vice president and country manager at The Walt Disney Company Africa, says "We are excited to grow our broadcast offering under the new ESPN banner, with our existing programming and intellectual property forming part of the plans for the future. We look forward to developing both channels in the months and years ahead."

Disney and ESPN have said nothing about why it wants to be back in Africa after it wanted out 6 years ago, or how the "new" ESPN will try to be better.

The ESPN brand was hugely damaged because of its ugly exit in mid-2013 with DStv subscribers saying they will never support, watch or trust it again.

Half-hearted brand marketing attempts in Africa by ESPN in conjunction with Econet's Kwesé TV that is now being liquidated but that sub-licensed some ESPN content rights for South Africa and Africa, have failed the past two years.