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Interactivity is the next thing we will invest more in: Gautam Thakar, CEO, Star Sports

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Interactivity is the next thing we will invest more in: Gautam Thakar, CEO, Star Sports

Star Sports, the official and exclusive broadcaster for the Unimoni Asia Cup cricket in India, released its first ad film for the tournament. Sharing the creative insight behind the same, Gautam Thakar, CEO, Star Sports, said that the idea was to capture a unique aspect about the Asia Cup, which is about rivalry among neighbours. “A lot of times our success is relative to what our neighbour's success is. There is this rivalry among neighbours, which is the insight we tapped for this film and the rest of the campaign that we have. Also, there is no bigger rivalry in cricket than India-Pakistan. And we believe that it is about getting the best out of each other, which the Asia Cup is about. This film just captures that,” said Thakar.

He shared that with IPL, Star Sports has been able to garner some important insights and learning. "Going regional with languages proved really successful last time around. We're going to do more of that through this year as the tournaments evolve. Then there is the Selected Dugout, a really novel innovation which serious cricket-enthusiasts really enjoyed. We're going to have that first time in the Asia Cup in the 50-over format. Both of those things, we felt really worked well for us,” revealed the CEO.

Thakar acknowledged that the broadcaster has been able to garner a fair amount of sponsorship interest. Not divulging numbers, he said, "We're seeing a good amount of sponsor interest. The reason we're seeing strong interest is that it's been a long time that India-Pakistan have played in Dubai or anywhere in the Middle-East. In this format, there could be up to three India-Pakistan matches. All these things are driving both sponsor and user-interest. And the viewership will stem from that." 

He pointed out that on a macro-level, sports is still in the early stages in India. “I think the amount of time and people who watch and play sports is still less if compared to the rest of the world, which is exciting. India is where there is a lot of potential. And the momentum is growing,” added Thakar sharing that the Women's World Cup has been able to create a lot of interest and there is a Women's T20 game coming up in November in West Indies.

Thakar revealed that during IPL their offering- Watch and Play did really well for the brand. “In fact, people who watched and played, watched twice as much as people who didn't watch and play. So we continue wanting to innovate. And the big goal there is how do we engage the users because that truly is a two-way medium and with some of the numbers that we saw on the IPL and its viewership, world records were set. It fetched us 10.3 million concurrent viewers. So we're making big bets on Hotstar and I think that interactivity is the next thing where we will invest more. You can expect more of what you saw in newer, fresher formats. But the goal really is to get the users to engage while watching the match,” he said.

As the brand plans to delve deeper into going regional with the languages, he explained that the channel has applied for language licences. “Our plans are ready and as they fructify, we'll launch in different languages. For the Asia Cup, we're going to do English, Hindi, Tamil and the Select Dugout. It’s a short format for two weeks. With more channels, we'll look at adding on the languages,” revealed Thakar.

"Unlike the IPL, in short-format tournaments, it becomes hard to build-up interest and it dies out very quickly, which is why we are keen on having regional language channels on the network. Bangla is one language we're looking at actively."

Highlighting the upcoming tournament's format, he said, “For the T20 format, the whole goal was to stay one step ahead. 50 overs is a slightly longer format. So we have to think about how do we keep that strategic insight sustained because we have more time for story-telling. In theory, it will remain the same concept. How we brand it, position it and make it more contextually-relevant for the 50-over format is what we're working on right now. Also things that worked well during IPL, like VR, we'll be expanding on those."

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