With plans to launch three new channels in the next few months, Star Sports is betting big on sports other than cricket. The company currently runs six sports channels and recently got the Government’s permission to launch three more.
Talking on the sidelines of the recently concluded CII Big Picture event, Star Sports President Nitin Kukreja said: “We will be launching these new sports channels in the next few months. We are committed to investing in newer sports and this just means that we need to have the channel capacity to showcase such content.”
After Pro-Kabaddi League, the company is focusing on the upcoming football league — the Indian Super League. “We are focusing on giving the football league an unprecedented push across multiple channels and languages,” he added.
Kukreja said the company will broadcast Super League in five languages – Hindi, English, Bengali, Malayalam and Kannada. So the league will be available on Star Sports 1, Star Sports 3, Star Sports HD2, Star Utsav, Asianet Movies, Jalsha Movies and Suvarna Plus. The broadcaster believes this strategy will help it reach out to nearly 85 per cent of India’s television audience.
Showing sports in regional languages on a general entertainment channel such as Star Gold as a strategy has worked well for the broadcaster, which claimed that nearly 435 million viewers watched the Pro-Kabaddi league in 37 days, making it the second-biggest sport after cricket.
Asked if India’s advertising ecosystem was ready to support these sports leagues, Kukreja said: “For kabaddi, we knew we won’t get the right benchmarks that were in our minds from the first year. So, we did not sell it. But advertiser interest built up as the league played out. Football, too, we believe, is in the incubation phase. We are in the investment phase as far as these non-cricket sports are concerned.”
Hero Motocorp has come on board as the title sponsor for India Super League, which is promoted by IMG-Reliance and Star India. The broadcaster expects to rope in other sponsors and is in the process of closing some deals soon, Kukreja said, without disclosing any names.
Asked whether sports channels in regional languages had worked for the broadcaster, Kukreja said: “It is very early days for sports in regional languages, but the potential is phenomenal.”