ESPN-STAR Sports has announced special initiatives to spread FIFA fever in the country during the live telecast of the FIFA World Cup from Germany in June this year and is eying the leadership position in terms of channel share during the period.
The sports network will undertake various production and marketing initiatives starting April 4, 2006 to augment the popularity of the property in India.
Speaking on the occasion, R C Venkateish, Managing Director, ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd, said, “The FIFA World Cup is one of the most watched sporting spectacles across the globe with last edition having a cumulative audience base of 28.8 billion worldwide. ESPN-STAR Sports will be unveiling a comprehensive programming around it to give the Indian viewers an experience of a lifetime to build their interest in the FIFA World Cup by creating an appeal.”
Elaborating on the production initiatives, Venkateish added, “To begin with, we have established a distinguished and enriched studio panel of presenters for the World Cup. Gerry Armstrong, ex-Irish International and now a soccer expert with ESPN-STAR Sports; Steve McMahon, ex-England and Liverpool player, and Harsha Bhogle, renowned sports presenter, will be on the ESPN-STAR Sports panel for the World Cup. The three generations of sports expert will provide a new dimension to the telecast of the event to viewers in India.”
ESPN-STAR Sports will also have Indian soccer experts, Novy Kapadia, Noel Da Kima Leitao, P K Bannerjee and Bhaichung Bhutia from India joining the above mentioned studio panel as guests every week during the FIFA World Cup. For coverage from the venues, the broadcaster will have two dedicated teams in Germany comprising Anand Narsimhan, Dave Roberts and Jason Dasey, who will capture the World Cup live from the host nation. Additionally, a special Indian ESS production team will travel across India to catch the enthusiasm among the Indian soccer fans.
The sports network will also have a special Hindi feed for traditional markets in India during the FIFA World Cup. Elaborating on this initiative, Venkateish said, “We are looking to reach the mass Indian market during this World Cup to build soccer as a sport in the country and localisation of content has helped us increase our penetration in traditional markets of India. The special Hindi feed will add a lot of value to our telecast especially for viewers who find it difficult to understand the heavily accented English or for viewers who are not familiar with English at all.”
“We reckon that this edition of the FIFA World Cup will break viewership records in India. The convenient timings of the matches, with some matches starting as early as 6:30 in the evening, will add to the number of eyeballs for the World Cup. A total 75 million Indians sampled the telecast of World Cup 2002, with a cumulative audience reach of 804 million in India. The ratings of the FIFA World Cup have been higher than the ratings of an India cricket test match. Soccer is getting much bigger in India than it was in 2002 with over 55 million people watching the European League this season,” he added.
Starting April, ESPN-STAR Sports will carry out various marketing initiatives to promote and build up the popularity even more. “We expect to be the leader in the country in terms of channel share during the telecast of the FIFA World Cup,” Venkateish said.
ESPN-STAR Sports is partnering with few of the top sponsors for marketing initiatives to create interest and build passion around the World Cup. The broadcaster will be undertaking a nation wide search for eight school children to be chosen as the FIFA fair play flag bearers at the World Cup. The contest will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for the school children to travel to Germany and stand with their favourite stars during the pre-match ceremony.
To upsurge the pre-event hype for the event, the channel will also build extensive on air FIFA programming to generate viewer interest. Starting April 4, ESPN-STAR Sports will telecast FIFA World Cup Stories, showcasing a series on some of the most fascinating stories in the World Cup history. The series of six 30-minute programmes will provide intriguing angles to some of the most amazing chapters of the golden heritage of the biggest sporting spectacle.
The programmes will feature stories on the most surprising and shocking results in the World Cup, Golden Boot winners of the previous editions, dramatic penalty shoot outs, young stars of the sport and rise to top of some of the underdogs. An extensive programming will follow the FIFA World Cup Stories on FIFA till the World Cup begins.