Disney set to close Fox Sports Asia channels in DTC pivot

The Walt Disney Company is set to shut down its network of Fox Sports Asia channels in October of this year, according to ContentAsia.

Among the 18 pay-television channels which are set for closure as Disney makes a ‘global effort to pivot towards a direct-to-consumer (DTC) first model’ include sports channels Fox Sports, Fox Sports 2, Fox Sports 3, Star Sports 1, Star Sports 2.

One of the longest-running television businesses in the Southeast Asia and Hong Kong regions, Disney has major deals in place with Formula One, along with flagship tennis tournaments the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

However, staff were informed at a meeting today that it was set to pull the plug on its various sports channels.

Shortly after, the conglomerate issued a statement to SportBusiness which read: “As part of The Walt Disney Company’s global effort to pivot towards a direct-to-consumer-first model and further grow our streaming services, the company is consolidating its Media Networks business primarily in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

“Effective 1 October 2021, Disney will operate a streamlined television portfolio that covers Chinese language channels (Star Chinese Channel; Star Chinese Movies) and Factual Entertainment (National Geographic Channel; Nat Geo WILD). These efforts will help us align our resources more efficiently and effectively to current and future business needs.”

As Disney’s focus shifts to its subscription streaming service Disney+, sports programming has become increasingly less important to the broadcaster, with the app not offering any sports content and instead focusing on film and television series.

Disney has already strengthened its foothold in the Asia-Pacific region, following the unveiling of Disney+ in Singapore, Indonesia and Japan, with the service expected to go live in Hong Kong later this year.

Although it has not yet been confirmed whether Disney will continue to carry any sports programming, the multinational firm has used the Star brand to boost its DTC offering, with its Indian subcontinent streaming platform Hotstar and pay-television service Star carry sports content.

In the US, Disney offers its Disney+ service and sports streaming app ESPN+, whilst in Latin America, the Star+ brand carries ESPN’s regional offering of live sports programming.

However, if Disney plans to cut its sports programming altogether, it has not yet been outlined what will happen with the conglomerate’s existing contracts, with its Formula One agreement expiring at the end of next year, and MotoGP, Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) and the Australian Open contracts coming to a natural end in 2022.

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