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Starsports.com races ahead with McLaren Mercedes F1 team

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MUMBAI: After testing waters with badminton through IBL (Indian Badminton League) and football through the Barclays Premier League, the Star network is all set to build its portfolio by connecting with other sports and introducing Indian viewers to thrills other than cricket.

The latest is a tie up between Star Network?s sports digital channel starsports.com and the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team for the 2013 Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix that will be held between 25 to 27 October. As a part of the deal, the rear wings of the McLaren Mercedes cars will sport the logo of starsports.com.

This apart, the website will also live stream the race live on 26 and 27 October (qualifying and final race) as well as develop programmes such as exclusive interaction with the team drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez as well as management including team principal Martin Whitmarsh and sporting director Sam Michael.

Interviews with team engineers will help viewers understand the mechanics of the garage. ESPN Software COO Vijay Rajput says, ?We believe this partnership will help in promoting starsports.com as the definitive destination for sports on digital. We will present an unrivalled live video experience as well as a place for replays and catch-up. The service will feature original content not screened on television, including outstanding video stories and insightful contributions from experts.?

Although feature videos are free to watch, the live streaming is not. Viewers have to pay Rs 500 to watch the whole F1 series that includes already gone by Korean and Japanese Grand prix and upcoming Indian, US, Abu Dhabi and Brazil ones. Live streaming of other sports is also a paid privilege with the ongoing India-Australia series priced at Rs 100 for all the matches. There is no delay in the stream.

?It is not just about putting a TV signal on the website but about giving viewers a fully different experience,? expounds ESPN Software India?s spokesperson. The live stream is accompanied by a video timeline to catch up on the event as well as ongoing statistics. F1 will also feature prominently on the site as well as be integrated into the ongoing cricket series between India and Australia. Star Sports plans to promote other sports through cricket since the Englishman?s game strikes a chord with Indian people like none other.

Social media will also engage viewers but it is only complimentary to the actual experience of watching it on the website. The live telecast on the two days will see Petronas and Rolex as presenting sponsors while Samsung, Micromax, Pernord Ricard and Vodafone will be associate sponsors apart from several spot buyers. As of now, the channel does not plan to have any Hindi commentary.

This year, the channel aims at expanding its portfolio by introducing a wide variety of sports to Indian viewers. The availability of live streaming for all kinds of sports is an effort to build the website as the only destination sports fans go to for catching live action in HD as well as provide additional data and analytics that are integrated into the video experience through their gadgets.

?Over the years, F1 has developed a strong following in the country. The introduction of Indian Grand Prix has further helped in broad basing the fan following. The live telecast of India Grand Prix last year generated average TVTs which were more than double the average TVTs generated by other races. Even on reach front, Indian GP delivered far higher numbers as compared to other races,? says Rajput.

Though Star India is aware that cricket is the dominant sport in the country, it feels that there is space for other sports to also grab eyeballs.

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