News Corp is placing one of its biggest bets in India with a significant commitment to the sports genre. Few moves in this direction were already seen since 2012 with STAR India cornering broadcast rights for sports such as cricket, hockey and badminton and the partnership with IMG and Reliance for Indian Super League for football.
The most crucial step, which STAR India COO, Sanjay Gupta terms as ‘closing the loop’, would manifest on November 6, 2013, when the Network launches a sports destination in India, Star Sports. STAR’s commitment towards this effort is ball parked to be in the region of Rs 20,000 crore.
Star Sports comprises six channels, four in Standard Definition, which would be called Star Sports 1, Star Sports 2, Star Sports 3 and Star Sports 4, and two High Definition channels called Star Sports HD 1 and Star Sports HD 2. The channels will air over 5,000 hours of live sports content and a slew of shows and formats in the calendar year 2014. Also in the network is Starsports.com, a digital platform that looks to provide rich, live content, some of which would be accessible only in pay format.
This also implies that the Network will cease to use the ESPN brand name in India for its broadcast properties, a development that comes as a result of News Corp buying out the ESPN stake in ESPN Star Sports. “The challenge is to also be able to communicate this change to audiences in India, and we would be doing that through a mass media campaign that breaks on November 6, 2013, which will promote Star Sports’ positioning of ‘Believe’,” informed Gupta. MS Dhoni, who has been signed on as the ‘Believe’ ambassador, will be the face of the campaign.
Inspiring India to ‘Believe’
STAR India’s overall approach to put ‘sports first’ would mean giving not only breadth to the kind of sports properties that it wants to broadcast, but also depth. “We believe sports is more than watching TV. And our new tagline, Believe, is in sync with that philosophy. At the same time, there has to be more motivation and incentive for different sports players in India – at a professional level, national level and even university level. These channels close the loop there,” Gupta said.
He also explained that while cricket is not the only sports platform that Indian audiences have shown interest in, even the cricket strategy in India is too large to confine to one channel. “We have hence divided content across the four channels to do justice to the kind of sports that we would want more heroes to develop in. This is also the first time when a serious effort has been made for a Hindi sports channel, which is our channel Star Sports 3,” shared Gupta.
Redefine sports broadcasting in India with an ‘all-star’ line up
For STAR India, bringing all the six TV channels under one brand ‘Star Sports’ and one purpose ‘Believe’ will signal the change to the consumer. STAR is laying stress on the Hindi language channel, Star Sports 3, stating that is one of the key steps to double the time spent on sports viewing in a year.
“In a nation where less than 10 per cent of the population understands English and a much smaller number are native speakers, sports broadcasters have traditionally programmed only in one language – English. Star Sports has seen success in Hindi commentary with Hindi now accounting for 70 per cent share of all viewership in the recently concluded Champion’s League T20 series. The launch of Star Sports 3 takes this engagement deeper – the content, graphics and shows will all be in Hindi,” Gupta pointed out. It is also launching a show Star Power on November 6, which is designed as a daily update and insights show, helping sports fan get deeper into the game. The half-hour show will broadcast live twice a day on Star Sports 3.
Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 2 would be dedicated to airing all sports relevant to India, including the different cricket matches, league games and so on. Star Sports 4 would be home to international sports content that has proved to be popular with Indian audiences in the past.
While Gupta admits that STAR is still “figuring out” what the digital play in India would eventually look like and what would be the trigger to further increase content consumption on the personal screens of laptops, PCs and mobile, he believes that the personal screen would be the second and the third ‘TV’ in the Indian household. STAR has hence put focus on its digital destination, Starsports.com as well. It has introduces a video timeline, a first for cricket anywhere in the world, that gives fans complete control of how they want to experience their favourite game and favourite heroes.
The large scale media push for ‘Believe’
Star Sports’ new brand highlights STAR Network’s ambition to change the face of sports broadcasting in India. In a campaign that breaks today, Star Sports asks India to ‘Imagine a world where sports come first’.
This thought has been executed by an innovation where sports content has been placed ahead of other content in leading daily The Times of India. The idea has also been pushed in other leading newspapers, news bulletins and websites across the country.
In addition, Star Sports has signed on MS Dhoni as its first ‘Believe’ ambassador with a campaign outlining the beliefs that have made Dhoni one of the most iconic heroes of today’s generation.
The campaign is supported on STAR Network and will be rolled out today when India will pause to watch Sachin Tendulkar play in the last two matches of his sports career. The new brand identity is a metallic star with an explosive incandescent swoosh symbolising the authority and passion of sports.