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ESPN's SportsCentre to be launched in Mandarin, English in August in rest of Asia

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Daily sports news programming during prime time is not proving as difficult as some feared for ESPN-Star Sports (ESS). Sportsline on Star Sports and the Hindi-language SportsCenter have both found audiences despite being pitted against daily soaps, a company release states.

Following on the success of SportsCenter, which debuted in March in India, the programme will be launched in Mandarin and English across the rest of Asia and China starting August.

Nearly 30 million people have tuned in to Star Sports to watch Sportsline since its launch last September, while close on 10 million watched ESPN's Hindi-language SportsCenter in just its first nine weeks of broadcast, the release says.

According to ESS managing director Rik Dovey, these figures are encouraging. "The 10 PM time slot is tough with our bulletins up against the top local serials and soap operas, so we are pleased to be carving out an audience for our programmes.

Sportsline, India's first live half-hour sports news programme, offers viewers international sports news from an Indian perspective, together with comprehensive coverage of domestic sporting events.

Sportsline has proved a good example of interactivity too as large numbers of Indian viewers log onto the company's website, espnstar.com, to participate in "Your Shout", an online extension of the programme. More than 10,000 people have responded to the weekly poll that invites viewers to vote on issues raised in the on-air programme.

SportsCenter on ESPN has performed well too since it debuted in India in March this year, presented in Hindi by Darain Shahidi. Within nine weeks of the India launch, 24 per cent of the cable audience had tuned in to SportsCenter. Again, the figures for upscale males were prominent, with 26 per cent of this universe having watched the programme. The information has been collated from market research agency ORG-Marg's Intam data, the release says.

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