Sony launches new channel and secures UFC rights deal

Media company Sony launched Six, its new sports and entertainment pay-television channel in India and the Indian subcontinent, through its Multi-Screen Media broadcast subsidiary on Saturday, April 7.

Six will broadcast developing sports in the country, such as mixed martial arts, basketball, football and badminton, as well as cricket, India’s most popular sport.

Late last week it was announced that Sony had acquired rights for the Ultimate Fighting Championship MMA series in India and the subcontinent in a four-year deal. The deal, which was signed in February, includes live rights for UFC events and archive content.

“We believe Six will stand out from the existing sports channels,” Multi-Screen Media chief executive Man Jit Singh told the Business Standard newspaper. “We want to target young India and provide a mix of entertainment and sport that appeals to both men and women. We currently have the rights for New Zealand cricket, the [English] FA Cup [club football tournament] and NBA [basketball]. We are in the process of acquiring Fifa [World Cup] qualifiers.” Singh added that Sony was “looking at hockey” rights to add to Six’s portfolio.

Singh said he expects Six to eventually be available to more than 70 million homes. It is currently available in 20 million.

Six will not show advertisements for its first three months of operation, and Singh said advertising rates had not yet been finalised.

Sony, which has the rights to the Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket tournament for the Indian sub-continent in a nine-year deal, from 2009 to 2017, will put highlights and other non-live IPL programming on Six for the remainder of this year’s tournament, which began last week. Live IPL coverage will next year switch to Six from Sony’s Max general entertainment channel.

Sony had hoped to exploit the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s rights for India national team home matches on the new channel, but was beaten to them by pay-television broadcaster Star TV. Last week Star TV acquired the rights in a six-year deal, from 2012-13 to 2017-18.