were thinking cricket was a dirty word after Team India's debacle in the ICC World Cup, you'll have to adjust your perspective a bit. ESPN STAR has bowled a googly with its Tuesday announcement of the launch of a dedicated cricket channel for audiences in the Indian subcontinent. The new channel from Asia's premier sports broadcaster will be called STAR Cricket and it will commence transmission in June 2007.
This move comes as a bit of a surprise, for the cricket channel is being launched at a time when Indian cricket is at an all time low after the dismal performance in the World Cup. Interestingly, with the ICC telecast rights for the next eight years and rights from Test-playing nations such as England and Australia, the ESPN STAR Sports network is looking at a total of 24 Test matches and 42 one day internationals in 2007 alone. In addition, ESPN STAR Sports will also showcase the ICC Twenty20 World Cup later this year, which will feature 27 matches.
So, is this bad timing or far-sightedness?
The Nimbus Group already has an exclusive cricket channel, Neo Sports, which telecast the last two home series against West Indies and Sri Lanka.
STAR Cricket plans to showcase quality first class cricket coverage from around the globe. It will also have feature programming on cricket, such as reality shows, archival programming and magazine shows.
Venkateish says, "With lots of cricket and other sporting properties with us, we decided to give Indian fans the unmatchable joy of enjoying their cricket with the depth they would like to see. While ESPN and STAR Sports will continue to broadcast live cricket as well as other key properties, STAR Cricket will be the one stop destination for all cricket action, history, updates, views and reviews."
STAR Cricket is also banking on the new and exciting cricket format, Twenty20, to take it to a new high. It holds the rights to the first ever ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup, which will be held in India later this year.
Ravi Shastri, ESPN STAR Sports expert commentator and the Indian cricket team's new manager for the Bangladesh tour, says, "Cricket is a religion in India - the interest, passion and emotion this game evokes will remain unmatched. With cricket being an integral part of our lives, a dedicated cricket channel with the right mix of live, non-live and feature programming was always needed and I am delighted STAR Cricket will fill this gap. There is a huge interest for live, quality, first class cricketing action from the top Test playing nations as well as content meticulously customised for Indian audiences, which is what STAR Cricket will strive to provide its viewers. I personally believe STAR Cricket is the best thing ever to have happened to the Indian cricket fan."
Harsha Bhogle, renowned cricket commentator and fellow member of "Few Good Men" on ESPN STAR Sports, says, "I believe STAR Cricket will be everything a cricket channel should be with a combination of live cricket and specially produced programming. I hope the real cricket lover will feel he is at home with STAR Cricket for he will get to see more than international cricket. When I was young, we could hardly follow the game unless the newspapers published the scorecards; then the Internet arrived, but this will give people an opportunity to see and form their own opinion. I would like to believe we will present cricket with a conscience."
In addition, ESPN and STAR Sports have an exciting array of non-cricket properties such as F1 and A1 in motor sports, Euro 2008 in soccer, the hugely popular English Premier League and Spanish La Liga, Grand Slam tennis action from the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, the Premier Hockey League and the best of action from the worlds of golf and wrestling.
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