afaqs! news bureau

Star India to launch two new HD sports channels

Star Sports Select HD 1 and Star Sports Select HD 2, the two new channels Star is launching, will telecast only international sports.

When your social media pages are flooded with #Respect Ronaldo posts moments after Portugal winning the UEFA European Championship, you know for sure that India is not alien to international sports. Jerseys of David Beckham or Thiery Henry then, or of Rooney and Ozil now, have been one of the primary ornamentations of Indian football fields. Barclays Premier League (BPL), or for that matter, any other European League, has developed its niche in India over the years and now broadcast giants are cashing in on it.

Star is now launching two new channels Star Sports Select HD 1 and Star Sports Select HD 2 for its international sports portfolio. The channels will telecast neither cricket, nor kabaddi, as it aims for uninterrupted coverage of international sports. To start with, Star will have BPL, Bundesliga, and Formula 1.

Star India to launch two new HD sports channels
Star India to launch two new HD sports channels
"We recognise the passionate international sports fans in India, and Star Sports Select HD and Star Sports Select HD 2 are all about giving due consideration to those fans," says Nitin Kukreja, CEO Star Sports. He further adds, "Apart from that, it's also about celebrating their fandom and passion and giving them lots more which we could not over the last three years."

Star Sports Select HD channels will launch in the first week of August, and will be available on all major DTH and cable platforms.

Select was launched in India by Star as its third English movie offering in the form of Star Movies Select HD. The brand, which described itself as a 'premium' channel, was launched last August (2015). A year later, Star is now launching two new Select products to support the Sports offering.

So, from movies to sports? "It's an extension of the Star Sports brand, yes, it's a fact that it happened to be in the movies space, too, but it caters to a select group there as well. It is called Select because there is a distinct set of people versus those who are watching kabaddi or cricket. And, there will be a clear differentiation on what these channels show vis-a-vis the rest of the channels," Kukreja adds.

"We will telecast as many as 300 BPL matches this time we; we will show lots more of the formula One coverage, as well as the Grand Slams (lawn tennis), and the Bundesliga coverage. We will also have international talk shows, as well as home-grown ones," says Kukreja as he shares the programming strategy.

Besides ad rates and revenue, it is creating consumer value. "Once you create consumer value can you then start creating monetising value," believes Kukreja.

The channel will promote the launches with aggressive cross platform marketing. "The metro cities will play an important part, and will be the centre of our target, but apart from the metros, we will also focus on footballing zones such as the North-East, West Bengal, and Kerala. We will launch the campaigns this week, and will announce that there are two channels launching exclusively for this fan base," he adds.

For BPL fans it means only HD or online as the SD feeds wont be available until October.

"We will be retiring the standard definition (SD) coverage of the Premier League until October, and hence, only these two channels will be available. Consumers will have the option to either watch the HD feed on Select, or migrate to Hotstar," Kukreja adds.

Kukreja is upbeat about HD. He believes it provides a superior viewing experience for the consumers and has good penetration. "HD has shown a lot of momentum in the last few years, and has gone from zero to seven million homes in four-to-five years. Viewing experience is the starting point of HD monetisation, be it distribution or advertising. The consumer proposition that you are starting with is the key," Kukreja concludes.

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