Ever since ESPN Star Sports started its rural drive in May, it has managed to make an entry into 1,700 new markets. Cable operators were offered special rates: Rs 50,000 a year for Star Sports and ESPN services. The offer, which began in May, is being revised upwards.
The reason why ESPN Star Sports is interested in tapping the rural market is because the cable connectivity in rural markets has grown 14 per cent, while the urban growth is crawling at 6.3 per cent, according to the IRS 2000 (Round two). Besides, there is no issue of under-declaration of actual subscribers by cable operators, a problem which plagues pay channels in urban markets.
ESPN Star Sports has identified five key states: Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Cable and Satellite growth rates in these states are high, ranging from 206 per cent in Uttar Pradesh and 31 per cent in Maharashtra to 28 per cent in Andhra Pradesh and 19 per cent in Tamil Nadu.
ESPN Star Sports has customised communication packages in nine languages for different regional markets: Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali and English.