The Getty family has effectively left itself with one final sports media interest, the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, after the sale of the hugely successful Cricinfo website to the Disney-owned ESPN sports network was announced this morning.
No sum was disclosed for the transaction, which sees the cricket content site which boasts around 7 million users each month transferred to American ownership.
Last November, Cricinfo moved its operational headquarters from London to Bangalore, in India, a move interpreted to cut production costs while also moving closer to the centre of the world’s largest cricket audience.
In April, Mark Getty’s Wisden Group sold The Wisden Cricketer magazine to BSkyB for Â£2.5 million and The Oldie to a group of private investors. Then, the declared intention was to develop Cricinfo further.
Today, according to Tom Gleeson, chief executive of Cricinfo, they had been in talks with ESPN for a few months, and in talks â€œonly with ESPNâ€.
The 14-year-old Cricinfo operation was one of the first content sites on the internet and has built a loyal following among cricket fans.
The site is a key acquisition for ESPN, which is aiming to grow its online audience through niche websites. ESPN is home to six US television networks, magazines and websites, including ESPN.com and ESPNsoccernet.com, the world’s leading English-language football website.
“Growing our business in the online world is vital for us to serve sports fans,” said Russell Wolff, the managing director of ESPN International. “Cricinfo is a tremendous property with a great fan base and it will be a strong addition to ESPN.”
ESPN will keep the Cricinfo brand separate and could begin to expand its video content to develop Cricinfo.tv, according to an open letter from the editor on the website today.
Sambit Bal said the lead-up to the acquisition had been fraught, but insisted the site would retain its identity and independence.
“To all of us who love cricket, Cricinfo is a phenomenon, a cult, a faith. It is one of the true wonders of the internet,” Bal said.
“It owes its inception to passion, ingenuity and innovation and its survival and growth is a triumph of the entrepreneurial spirit that infected everyone who came in touch with it.
“The internet is a restless and hungry medium: to stay contemporary and relevant, it needs fresh ideas and, let’s not be coy about it, fresh investments.”
Cricinfo was founded in 1993 as an online community for cricket fans. It received major investment in 1999 from Indian IT firm Sify in return for a majority stake in the company, and in 2003 was bought by Mark Getty’s cricket media business, the Wisden Group.