ESPN-STAR Sports has re-acquired live and exclusive broadcast rights of FIA Formula One (F1) World Championships in India. The sports broadcaster has signed a five-year agreement with F1 organisers.
Under the terms of the agreement, ESPN-STAR Sports will broadcast live and exclusive coverage of all 19 F1 championship races from 2006 up to the 2010 season.
ESPN-STAR Sports has also signed the fastest Indian, Narain Karthikeyan, for promoting F1 in the country. Karthikeyan will be an integral part of ESPN-STAR Sports’ plan to promote motor sports in India. The sports broadcaster will build a special on-air campaign around him and will also hold on-ground promotional events – screenings and road shows in selected cities across India to promote F1.
On the F1 acquisition, R C Venkateish, Managing Director, ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd, said, “We have been on a spree of acquiring new sports properties for our viewers in India. In the recent past, we have acquired the Confederation Cup and the World Cup Soccer 2006, TNA wrestling, A1 Grand Prix and now the Formula One for five years. These acquisitions place us with a long list of properties across every discipline.”
Venkateish added that the new F1 deal represented the continuation of a successful partnership between ESPN-STAR Sports and F1. On Karthikeyan being appointed as brand ambassador, he said, “We will use his presence in the F1 circuit to further grow the sport’s popularity in India. Narain’s presence will help in making Indian consumers relate to motor sports, subsequently leading to viewership for the sport. We will kickstart our promotional campaign with Narain in an on-ground event in his home town Coimbatore in the first half of August 2005.”
Commenting on the deal, Bernie Eccelstone, Chief Executive Officer, Formula One management, said, “We are delighted to be able to renew our long standing relationship with ESPN-STAR Sports, and together we hope to be able to continue to grow the popularity of F1 in Asia.”
ESPN-STAR Sports has been working on a planned strategy to increase sampling of F1 in India. There are regular screenings held across the country for viewers. At the same time, there has been an attempt to add local flavour in programming, especially for markets where F1 is already popular, like Tamil Nadu.
F1 telecast with Tamil commentary started with the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix on April 3, 2005. Radhakrishnan Srinivasan, an experienced presenter and anchor for Sportsline and SportsCenter, commentates in Tamil.