Prajjal Saha

STAR Sports says Hindi Zindabad!

Asia Cup will see the channel launching Hindi programming with Shekhar Suman

STAR Sports may be positioned as a Hindi sports channel in the near future, senior channel executives at ESPN STAR Sports have indicated.

The channel's association with Hindi programming will start with the forthcoming cricket tournament - IndianOil Asia Cup, where the channel has set up a slew of new programming to grab viewers from the Hindi heartland.The entire programming initiative has been branded as 'Voice Aapki and Choice Aapki'.

Popular television presenter Shekhar Suman has been roped in to boost the team of Hindi commentators, which has notable former cricketers like Waqar Younis, Vinod Kambli, Maninder Singh and Arun Lal.

Suman, channel executives say, will act as a "bridge" between the experts and the common viewers. Perhaps, he will do what sports presenter Harsha Bhogle does at ESPN.

The choice of Suman is interesting because unlike Bhogle, he has never been a serious TV presenter. On the contrary, television viewers have been exposed to his wisecracks on shows such as Movers and Shakers on Sony, Poll Khol on STAR News, and Carry on Shekhar on SAB TV. So, it remains to be seen how the popular TV host will adapt to the new role of a cricket presenter.

Suman will conduct viewer poll, act as an interface between the commentators and viewers, interact with viewers-on-air, and also would explain cricket terminologies.

Senior channel executives say that the USP of the new programming format of STAR Sports will be a high degree of interactivity between the sports lovers and the presenter/commentators. Some of the upcoming programmes are: The Pitch Doctor, and Player up close and personal. R C Venkateish, managing director, ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd, in fact, clarified that the programmes on STAR Sports and ESPN will be entirely different, except for the show Shaz and Waz, hosted by Ravi Shastri and Wasim Akram.

The network's move to sign up a host of former cricketing greats - who can converse freely in Hindi - is precisely aimed at increasing the channel's following in the suburban and rural markets in the Hindi heartland, where the game has been always followed religiously, but the language of programming was a barrier.

In the new scheme of things, while STAR Sports will be catering to viewers in small towns and villages of northern and western India, ESPN will be involved with people in metros and non-Hindi speaking areas in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

The difference in viewership profile between the two channels could also benefit the advertisers. While the high-end brands can use ESPN to reach their target groups, low-end brands or mass products can possibly use STAR Sports as a media vehicle.

The telecast of Asia Cup - a six-nation cricket contest, starting from July 16 -- will see powerhouse cricketing countries like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka taking on minnows Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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