ESPN is all braced to woo the Hindi speaking audience. On April 9, the Hindi edition of 'Sportscenter' will go on air. 'Sportscenter' is a live half-hour news programme that will give an update of the latest happenings from international and regional sporting events every weekday. It is also the first regional edition of 'Sportscenter' in Asia. ESPN has already grabbed two sponsors for 'Sportscenter' Hindi - Hero Honda and Coca-Cola.
Explaining the objective behind the launch of 'Sportscenter' in Hindi, Manu Sawhney, managing director, ESPN software India Ltd., said, "The objective is to offer to the sports viewers across the country international sports news from the 'Indian perspective' and regional events in their own language."
The programme will be featured every weekday evening from 8 pm to 8:30 pm and repeated at 11 pm. However, the first show, which goes on air on April 9, will be telecast at 5:30 pm to accommodate live cricket from West Indies. 'Sportscenter' Hindi, anchored by Darain Shahidi, former sports presenter with NDTV, is produced by a team of 20 people headed by Ravikant Singh. The programme will be produced from ESPN STAR Sports' production facility in Singapore. While the sports news clippings will be obtained from SNTV (Sports News Television) and Sky Sports, the cricket clippings will be accessed from ESPN STAR Sports' International cricket productions from seven test playing nations. These are Australia, South Africa, England, West Indies, Pakistan, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. The India-related news will be handled using India hired facilities.
Elements such as Headlines International News, Cricket News, Football Wrap-up, Indian Diary, Sponsored Section, Cricket Ratings, India Results, Play of the Day etc will constitute the content of 'Sportscenter'. A major part of the content will be sourced from 'Sportscenter' International edition, TWI, BBC, ITV, New Delhi Television, Hong Kong's TVB, Australia's Channel 9 Network, Australian Broadcasting Corporation and TV South Africa.
Evidently, ESPN is gung-ho about the new initiative. The ad budget for 'Spotrscenter' just for the months of April and May is estimated to be Rs 1-2 crore. To establish a rapport with the Hindi speaking audiences in 14 cities, the campaign conceived by HTA, will break out in all national and regional dailies and in cinema halls. Sawhney also indicated the possibility of having 'Sportscenter' in Tamil in the near future.
About the communication strategy Sawhney said, "Sportscenter is ESPN's flagship show worldwide and it thrives on the irreverence of sports and the fanaticism that every sports fan enjoys. Our strategy is to stir the same passion through a language that Indians can relate to."
As is evident, DD Sports has a lot of catching up to do. After the 50:50 joint venture was formed in November 1996 and with its recent software acquisitions, ESPN STAR Sports now wields a monopoly in sports coverage in India. ESPN has the rights to telecast cricket matches held in Australia, South Africa, England, West Indies, Pakistan, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. The telecast rights of US Open and Wimbeldon tennis championship that ESPN had, have been extended for another three years. In addition to this, ESPN has acquired the rights to telecast Formula One racing championship for five years. And recently it also got the exclusive rights to air English Premier League in Asia for a period of five years.
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