Excerpts of the interview with Head of Affiliate Sales, ESPN STAR Sports – Rajesh Kaul
RK. Over the last couple of years, we had relatively weaker content (by our standards) but now we have a very strong line-up of events including India cricket over the next 18 months hence the Badshah is back. During this period , the real Badshah will reestablish his sultanate in India. We will be broadcasting more than 340 days of international cricket in the stated time period including 87 days of confirmed India cricket LIVE AND EXCLUSIVE on ESPN Star Sports. The details of the confirmed India cricket is as follows:-
1. India v/s South Africa: 3 Test Matches
2. India v/s South Africa: 5 ODIs
3. India v/s England: 3 Test Matches
4. India v/s England: 7 ODIs
5. India v/s Australia: 4 Test Matches
6. India v/s Australia v/s Sri Lanka: 15 ODIs
7. Asia Cup: 10 ODIs
This is more than anyone else in the business. We are also in the process of acquiring some more property rights of India’s cricket & other sports details of which will be announced as and when we get them.
Apart from cricket, what other important sport are you going to show on ESPN Star Sports?
ESPN & Star Sports is the best sports network in the country That is because apart from best of cricket, we also have best of soccer EPL (English Premier League) and Spanish Primera Liga, best of tennis (Wimbledon, Australia Open), best of motor racing (formula 1, A-1) best of golf , best of Hockey. Indian consumer is evolving & he is consuming more and more of sports. Though international cricket involving India still rules, popularity of Non-India cricket (NIC),cricket played between countries besides India, is on the rise. Our rating for ASHES last year was very close to India Cricket This is because of the coming of age of the Indian audience’s appreciation for sports in general and cricket specifically. Indians are also consuming more & more of international sports other than cricket as was evident by the record breaking ratings we received during the FIFA World Cup on ESPN Star Sports.
RK. Our viewer ship has been growing steadily in India across various target groups. We are watched by millions of viewers in India alone. A lot is happening in the world of sports and we are constantly innovating on our channels to encash this opportunity. Besides Cricket, we are focusing a lot on soccer this year, along with developing other sports. Soccer is the second most watched sport in the country and we plan to broadcast lot of soccer coverage in the coming season. We will be showcasing loads of English Premier League (EPL) and Spanish League action to the soccer lover this year.
Please elaborate on your channel’s marketing and distribution strategies. How have you positioned your channel in the Indian market?
Our strategy is very simple. We are in the business of providing sports entertainment to viewers and we will do so by showcasing worlds’ and India’s best sporting events and sports related programming. It is the market that defines the priorities of its sports, as to whether the viewers want to watch cricket, hockey, soccer, or Formula 1. While cricket remains the driver of sports programming in India, we aim to promote other sports also, Premier Hockey League (PHL) is an example.
RK. Increasing viewer ship is a round the clock process and is linked with brand building. It takes a long time and lots of effort to build a brand and broadcasting is no different. Being the worldwide leader in sports certainly helps us in our efforts to increase viewer ship. So we leverage our rich international sports heritage, worldwide tie-ups, global presence and experience to grow ESPN STAR Sports in the region. We use our international experience to bring global television values in the coverage of local sports. We aim to bring the best of sports from around the world to the Indian audience and to adapt it as much as possible to Indian taste. Hindi commentary and Indian faces in the commentary box and in the pre-post-show analysis programs on LIVE programming are steps in this direction.
RK. We are looking at 100% increase in our revenues & subscriber base in the next 18 months