LONDON — Star India, 21st Century Fox’s pay TV subsid, has announced a 200 billion rupee ($3.2 billion) investment in the Indian sports business.
Following News Corp’s 2012 buyout of ESPN’s 50 per cent share in the ESPN Star Sports joint venture channels, Star’s Indian sports channels from Wednesday (Nov. 6) have been rebranded Star Sports, with four standard definition and two high definition channels and an online entity starsports.com.
Appropriately, for a country where cricket is the most popular sport by some distance, Star has signed India’s cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni as their brand ambassador. Cricket will remain the focus of Star’s sports broadcasting, but will now go deeper with coverage of university level matches joining international games and domestic tournaments.
Star India Chief Exec Uday Shankar (pictured above) said, “While cricket will be central to our approach, we will also be faithful to our role as a sports broadcaster and bring in the best of local and world sports to India, whether in soccer, hockey, badminton, tennis, F1 or the many other sports that fans in India are deeply passionate about.”
Some of the tournaments that Star is investing in are Indian Super League soccer, in partnership with IMG-Reliance and the All India Football Federation, the Hockey India League and the Indian Badminton League.
Star has also recognised that the vast majority of Indian audiences do not follow English language commentary and therefore the Star Sports 3 channel will entirely be in the Hindi language with plans in the months ahead to introduce Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Bengali language feeds.
Star timed the November 6 rebranding announcement to coincide with the start of the two match India versus West Indies cricket series, which will be the last two games for India’s most popular sportsman, Sachin Tendulkar, after which he will call time on a 24-year career.