ESPN Star Sports gives English football league the Hindi touch

MUMBAI:  ESPN Star Sports seems to be scoring well with its viewers with the telecast of Barclays Premier League (BPL) this year. And it’s no plain statement. The broadcaster which is airing the football league in both English and Hindi this season says it has seen a 254 per cent jump in its ratings on the inaugural day. Not only this, it points out that it has recorded a 105 per cent increase in the time spent per viewer on the inaugural day.

The league which went on air from 17 August on Star Sports and Star Cricket has also been made available in Hindi for the first time. “We believe there is a huge potential for growth in football viewership and that Indian fans would love to consume non-cricket sports as well if the product is packaged well, communicated and presented in an interesting manner,” said ESPN Software India COO Vijay Rajput.

It is important to explain the live action in a language and idiom which is clearly understandable by the viewers expounds Vijay Rajput.

According to the data received by, BPL's viewership in the 15 plus age group of men in the ABC segment rose from the previous season's 324 TVTs (esimated) to 760 TVTs. Day 1 of the league saw it record a reported 206 per cent increase in its reach. The stickiness among the football crazy fans has also witnessed a jump in the league this time around. Though last year the inaugural matches of BPL recorded 10 minute TSV (Time Spent viewing), this year it went up to 16 minutes - a rise of 105 per cent.

The launch of BPL in Hindi is in-line with the channel’s strategy of pushing multi-lingual content. “The focus on English commentary/graphics by sports broadcasters till date has been a big deterrent in the growth in viewership. For viewers to understand the nuances of football and the league itself, we feel it is important to explain the live action in a language and idiom which is clearly understandable to one and all,” stated Rajput.

The Hindi commentary is in addition to the English commentary which will also be available for all the televised matches from the full season. Under the dual audio feed system,DTH/digital subscribers can choose the language of their preference.

ESPN Star Sports has decided to select two matches every week and telecast them in Hindi and English. “We are targeting to telecast close to 140 matches live with Hindi commentary in this season. In addition, almost 50 matches with Hindi commentary will have delayed telecast. So, overall about 190 matches would be covered with Hindi commentary,” he informed.

The sportscaster caster has identified UK based commentators of Indian origin who will describe the proceedings on the field in Hindi for BPL. The Hindi commentary is being done from the stadium itself. “For viewers to understand the nuances of soccer and the league itself, we feel it is important to explain the live action in a language and idiom which is clearly understandable to one and all.”

A three-pronged strategy has been put in place to promote the BPL: this includes: appointing MS Dhoni as its brand ambassador, covering select matches with Hindi commentary and have non-live Hindi programming around the tournament to ensure that more and more sports fans sample and understand the league's nuances, its clubs and its stars.

“We roped in Dhoni as the brand ambassador to excite sports fans who consume a lot of cricket to sample BPL as well with an ultimate objective of expanding the fan base of BPL in the country,” he informed.

ESPN Star Sports has launched a mix of shows based on highlights/goals/review and preview of the latest in BPL which will be showcased week on week through the season.

“We started off with six episodes of a buildup show ‘Superstar Football’ which focuses on multiple facets of the league - famous owners, top clubs and top players in the league etc. We will also showcase highlight shows of BPL in Hindi through the season. This fast paced snapshot of happenings in BPL will make for interesting television,” informed Rajput.

The broadcaster is also looking at magazine shows every week, which will be a review of the season gone-by and a preview of the coming week’s matches. “This show will have colour/ feature stories from BPL.We will also telecast a half an hour show on goals every week. All the Hindi programming around BPL will be produced in India.”

The work done around BPL has helped the broadcaster in not only receiving good ratings, but has also lured in the advertising dollars.   “We have received a very positive advertiser interest for this season. Even before the start of the league, we had monetised close to 85 per cent of the annual available inventory,” he informed. Tata Motors, Pernod Ricard, Adidas, Tata Teleservices, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (Amul) and Nokia India are some of the big names to have come on board as associate sponsors on-air for the live telecast.

ESPN Star Sports tack to go local with Hindi commentary simulcast has found favour with cricket fans by contributing 40 per cent of the overall ratings for the India-Australia test series. The test series delivered an average rating of 2.05 TVR which was the highest average rating for a test series played by India in the past four years. “We also had a very successful inaugural season of the Hero Hockey India League in both Hindi and English, which delivered an impressive reach of 41.4 million.”

With even the on-going IBL which is being showcased in both Hindi and English, the sportscaster is surely eyeing an eyepopping increase in viewership numbers. It clearly is serving (its customers we mean) right.

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