NEW DELHI: Others have done it too in the past and some of them have tasted success too. Ask the likes of Cartoon Network and they'll swear by Hindi and how it has helped increase a channel's penetration. Sports broadcaster ESPN Star Sports now is banking on Hindi and some innovations to further increase viewership, apart from getting on board Waqar Younis and Shekhar Suman.
Today it announced that it would provide simultaneous telecast of the important Asia Cup cricket matches in English and Hindi on its two channels with the Hindi commentary being available on Star Sports.
"The Hindi commentary on Star Sports will help us in increasing the penetration of our channels further and extend the enjoyment of our hi-quality telecast among Hindi following viewers. Simultaneous telecast of live matches on two channels is a first-of-its-kind initiative and we are proud to be tailoring our telecast to suit our viewers," ESPN Software India Pvt. Ltd. managing director RC Venkateish said at a press conference here.
What's more, the Hindi fare on Star Sports will not be just Hindi translation of English programming on ESPN, but have a dedicated team whipping up specially-created programming in Hindi.
"We want to get closer to the viewers in India. We want to say 'India this is your channel' by giving the option to the viewer to watch his favourite game in a language which he understands best," Venkateish explained, adding viewers must look forward to all the special features and greater
interactivity starting with the Indian Oil Asia Cup.
Indian Oil director (marketing) Dr NG Kannan, the principal sponsor of Asia Cup, said, "The company has identified cricket as a primary driver in our branding activities and our primary sponsorship of the Asia Cup is the first part of a wide range of initiatives to showcase our brands."
Shekhar Suman joins Hindi team
The Hindi production team would have approximately 100 crew members. Cricket telecast on Star Sports will have its independent personality, though the improved lunch-show Shaz and Waz will be common to both the sports channels.
Star Sports Hindi cricket telecast will be called Voice Aapki-Choice Aapki and will be anchored by Suman. Hindi will be used for all aspects of the telecast, including show hosting, commentary as well as key graphics.
To bolster its Hindi commentary team ESS has signed former Pakistani captain and one of greatest fast bowlers, Younis, as a commentator for the Indian Oil Asia Cup telecast.
Besides Waqar, the Hindi team will also include former Indian Test players Arun Lal, Maninder Singh and Vinod Kambli. For the first time, a concept of special host and anchor is being introduced for a cricket telecast during
Suman, who has delivered a variety of successful shows on various TV channels, will also 'de-layer' the complexities of cricket for followers of the game.
Commenting on his association, Younis said, "I am excited to be associated with ESS, especially in a telecast that, I believe, will make a paradigm shift in cricket broadcasting."
Speaking on his new role, Suman, said, "I am an ardent cricket fan and I am anxiously looking forward to this challenge. Our endeavor is to make cricket telecast even more entertaining and involving without taking away anything from the fabric of the game."
With an objective of sports entertainment, ESS will be launching many new features during the Indian Oil Asia Cup telecast, including The Pitch Doctor, Player Up close and Personal and the new look Shaz and Waz show. The Pitch Doctor will make pitch reporting more accurate with the help of specialised equipment, which will be used for collecting data on pitch moisture and humidity.
Star Sports will allow viewers to participate and express their views throughout the telecast and not just in the pre and post game discussions. In both live play and hosting, viewers would be divided on the basis of a demographic characteristic. For instance, commentators might ask only
viewers from Delhi or a particular state to express their views for a particular span of time.
A special feature Aapkee Farmaish will also be introduced. This will allow viewers to ask for the replay of a special moment during the day.
The Indian Oil Asia Cup, which is to be played amongst India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Hong Kong, will be held in Sri Lanka from 16 July - 2 August 2004.