ESPN hires Ross Hair to replace Lynne Frank

The sports broadcaster ESPN is preparing to announce the appointment of Ross Hair, who joins from Sony Pictures Television and will take over as head of its operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The news brings to a close the US broadcaster's search of almost five months to replace Lynne Frank, who established ESPN in the UK, after her unexpected departure citing personal reasons.

Mr Hair was most recently executive vice-president of international networks for Sony Pictures Television in Europe, Middle East and Africa. The appointment marks a second stint at ESPN after working at the group's Star Sports business in Singapore. Before that he spent five years at Nickelodeon in the UK, joining from BSkyB. The timing of Mr Hair's arrival at ESPN is still not clear, but until then, the businesses will be overseen by Russell Wolff, executive vice-president of ESPN International.

Ms Frank, a highly respected executive who led ESPN's charge into the UK, left the Disney-owned group in April to return to the US after 17 years in London. She had been at ESPN for five years during which time she oversaw the acquisition of cricket website Cricinfo.com and a similar site for rugby, Scrum.com.

Yet her most dramatic move was overseeing the launch on British TV screens. ESPN picked up the rights for 46 live Premier League games last season following the collapse of the original rights holder Setanta Sports, and had just six weeks to launch the channel.

ESPN's rights have now fallen to one package, which will allow them to show 23 matches a year until 2013, but it has picked up the FA Cup to offset the loss.

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