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Dobbs becomes latest sports executive to leave Fox Sports Asia

The chief sports media-rights buyer for the Asian Fox Sports pay-television channels, Craig Dobbs, in December became the latest in a series of senior departures from the business.

Dobbs worked with the company from its Singapore office for more than 10 years and was most recently head of programming and acquisitions for Asia and the Middle East. He has now returned to his native Australia and is seeking “new projects”.

SportBusiness understand that Dobbs’ responsibilities for sports rights acquisitions in Asia have been taken over by Hong Kong-based Michael Dick, head of acquisitions at Fox Networks Group Asia. Dick adds sports acquisitions to his existing brief to acquire content for FNG in other genres.

Before moving to Singapore, Dobbs was the long-standing director of programming and acquisitions at Premier Media Group, managing acquisitions and distribution for Australia’s pay-television Fox Sports channels.

Fox Sports Asia is part of the FNG international pay-television channel business that was acquired by The Walt Disney Company last year. This was part of Disney’s wider deal to take over most of the assets of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

Disney last year began restructuring FNG Asia, which operates channels in most Asian territories except for the Indian subcontinent, resulting in the departures of several senior executives.

Zubin Gandevia, head of FNG in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, is leaving the business although remains in situ for a ‘transition period’.

Rohit D’Silva, FNG’s executive vice-president and managing director for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, left last summer. Among D’Silva’s responsibilities were negotiating carriage deals for the Fox Sports channels with pay-television platforms – this job has been taken over by one of his former reports, Theresa Ong, SVP, affiliate sales and partnerships at FNG Asia.

Italo Zanzi, executive vice-president and managing director of sports for FNG Asia, also left last summer. Zanzi was previously the chief executive of Italian Serie A club Roma. 

Silva remains involved in the sports and esports space, as a consultant to several startups and emerging businesses. Zanzi has started a luxury travel company, TrustyLux, along with his wife.

Disney’s vision for the future of Fox Sports in Asia is not yet clear. The departures of D’Silva, Zanzi and Dobbs have shorn the company of extensive sports industry expertise.

Fox Sports Asia and FNG are operating in an increasingly tough business environment. The pay-television business in Southeast Asia in particular is contracting sharply. Pay-television platforms are cost-cutting and driving down carriage fees as their subscriber bases are stagnating or declining. Fox has in the last year been negotiating hard during sports media rights acquisitions, attempting to keep a lid on spending.

Disney’s pay-television business in Asia, covering FNG as well as Star India in the Indian subcontinent, is led by Uday Shankar, previously head of Star India alone. In a memo last year announcing a raft of managerial changes across Asia, including the departure of Gandevia, Shankar said: “While our region is experiencing tremendous change, the common thread that binds it together is the exciting opportunity it presents to build on the great businesses that we have today and create transformational businesses of tomorrow.

“My endeavor is to build an organisation that enables us to take full advantage of this unique opportunity and capitalise on the potential of the great leadership talent that we have in the region.

“We recognise the need for a sharp focus on building deeply local businesses. To achieve this, we are making some changes to the current market structure. This will allow us to serve the strategic agenda in each market and enable our exceptional leaders to build even greater and more successful businesses. Above all, this will facilitate our transformation into a direct-to-consumer company that rests on deep local foundations.”