ESPN returns to Africa, ‘readies US cost cuts’

kweseESPN has relaunched in Africa, inking a carriage deal with new regional pay TV player Kwesé, with the news coming as US reports suggest the Disney-owned sports broadcaster will slash jobs in its domestic US market.

In Africa, ESPN will now exclusively be on Econet Media’s Kwesé. It will have a mix of live sport, including US NFL, NHL and the NBA from the US, and sport magazine programming including the SportsCenter show.

The launch line-up includes X Games, Indy Car 2017 and AFL.

The Kwesé deal means the sport channel will be in 19 territories throughout sub-Saharan Africa. A localised ESPN site and app will launch in the region later this year.

“This is a real game changer,” said Econet CEO Joseph Hundah (above left). “The launch of this channel is significant as it cements our place as a leading provider of sports programming in Africa”.

Russell Wolff (above, secind from left), executive VP and managing director, ESPN International, said: “We are thrilled to be working with a fellow innovator like Econet to bring ESPN and SportsCenter back to television screens in Africa and expanding the Kwesé and ESPN digital connection with fans.”

ESPN in the US, meanwhile, is preparing “significant cost-cutting” according to Sport Illustrated, citing multiple sources.

The sport magazine brand says the cuts will come over the next few months and ESPN wants to shave tens of millions of dollars from its payroll, including on-air talent.

No names or numbers of job cuts were divulged, but the US report said the process will be complete by June.