Trace Sports Stars to take on Indian Stars

MUMBAI: Launched in June 2011, you could call it a niche-within-niche channel however Trace Sports, from the French media group Trace TV - a channel which focuses on sports celebrities – is now repositioning itself, starting with a recent name change to Trace Sports Stars.   

As part of the spruce-up, from being a not-so-popular channel, Trace Sports Stars, distributed in the country by NDTV, now claims to have 10 million subscribers. “Having now got a substantial distribution for a channel catering to an entirely new segment of audience, we are looking at creating the eco-system of long term sustainability,” says NDTV Associate vice president Network Distribution and Affiliate Sales Rohit Jaiswal.

More than 50 networks including Hathway, GTPL, Manthan, ICNCL, Ortel, Fastway and Airtel provide Trace Sports Stars as a pay HD only channel for Rs 30 (analogue). Plans are afoot to double the number of subscribers in coming months.

As of now, the channel boasts shows such as Up Close With where sports celebs share their private lives, Just Fan where fans speak about their favourite celebs, Fighting Spirit where celebs reveal tricks of the trade, Body and Soul where celebs talk about their diet and fitness regime, Free Sports with prestigious events from extreme sports, Entourage where fans get to meet the celebs’ near and dear ones and Music Match which brings together a sports celeb and a famous artist for a day.

However, Trace Sports Stars is yet to add some local flavour to interest Indian audiences. “We plan to introduce localisation based on some of the global formats, once we get a critical reach,” says Jaiswal. It would be interesting to see Indian sports celebs like Sachin Tendulkar (who recently announced his exit from Cricket), Kapil Dev, Vishwanathan Anand, Saina Nehwal, Baichung Bhutia, Dhanraj Pillai and Leander Paes among many others talking about their lives on screen.

A channel like this will always be driven by a certain percentage of the audience and not necessarily mass market believes Jaiswal

With the distribution part taken care of, the channel plans to focus on touch points to increase awareness among its audience. “A channel like this will always be driven by a certain percentage of the audience and not necessarily mass market,” says Jaiswal, adding, “Think of it as a sports channel one can watch with his girlfriend/wife and an entertainment channel one can watch with her boyfriend/husband.”

How confident is the channel about its rather niche content? “There is a proliferation of sporting events now being broadcast which helps translate into more awareness and a diverse fan following across all these sporting events and like all fans, sporting fans also like to know more about their icons/idols outside their professional space,” says Jaiswal.

Recently, Trace Sports Stars signed a deal with Remedy Productions on a commission basis to produce more than 100 hours of entertainment programming. Battle of the Bling will compare the biggies in the world of sport such as Christiano Ronaldo and Mike Tyson to their film and music counterparts.

While the channel claims to cater to the age group of 15 to 35 years, it remains to be seen whether sports lovers in the country will want to know what made say a Saurav Ganguly rip his shirt after a win more than him as a player on the field.

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