Slated for a June 07 launch, 'Star Cricket' will be the 15th network launched by ESPN Star Sports in the Asia-Pacific region and the third channel for India. ESPN plans to make the channel available to the largest extent. To ensure that the Direct-To-Home (DTH) customers are not deprived of the new entrant, the company is also in talks with DTH companies such as Tata Sky and Dish TV for putting Star Cricket on DTH platform.
Star Cricket will be the second 'only-cricket' channel after 'Neo Sports' from Nimbus Communications. The channel is going to take the viewers round the globe as it will bring the international matches to the Indian TV screen. Reason being the telecast rights for international matches, it has grabbed. However, Nimbus has got the privilege to telecast all Indian matches till 2010.
Since 'Neo Sports' and 'Star Cricket' both are cricket focused, it crops up the issue of competition among the two channels. However, Shashi Kalathil, chief executive, Neo Sports Broadcast Pvt. Ltd. said he didn't think there was a clash of interest. “Given the nature of our rights, Neo is more India-focused,” Kalathil said. “Star Cricket will bring in a lot of international cricket including a number of twenty-twenty formats. This will attract viewer ship from dedicated sports fans. Therefore a number of premium and niche brands including portals and shopping malls, will advertise on it,” a senior media buyer said.
Besides the ICC telecast rights for the next eight years, ESPN Star Sports also holds rights for Test-playing nations such as England and Australia. The sports broadcaster is looking at a total of 24 Test matches and 42 One Day internationals in 2007 alone. In addition, ESPN STAR Sports will also showcase the ICC Twenty-Twenty World Cup later this year, featuring 27 matches.
24x7 'Star Cricket' will be a pay channel. Along with live matches, the channel will have features, analysis and views-based programmes for in-depth coverage of sub-continent's prime sport. However, the new channel will have to contend with a stricter line from advertisers, who suffered when India failed to progress to the second round of the World Cup 07, and who are likely to demand performance-related advertising contracts. In addition to this, the next World Cup will be played in Australia, where morning matches are played largely during Indian working hours.
There are people who feel that cricket's craze is almost over and investing huge finances into it doesn't make good business sense. On this R.C. Venkateish, Managing Director, Software India Ltd., holds the opinion that though critics and advertisers may cry hoarse about the game being overpriced, but there's still big money in cricket.
But more number of people support the point that cricket is the best business. “Cricket is a religion in India. The interest, passion and emotion this game evokes will remain unmatched for all times to come,” said Mr Ravi Shastri, the recently appointed manager of the Indian cricket team who is also a commentator for the network.
While ESPN and STAR Sports will also continue to broadbcast live cricket and other key properties, STAR Cricket will be the one-stop destination of all the cricket action, history, updates, views and reviews, said Venkateish”.