Star Sports is pulling all stops to woo viewers for the soccer series Barclays Premier League (BPL), which kicks off on Saturday.

For the first time, the broadcaster is set to air nearly 100 soccer matches with Hindi commentary (two matches a week) It has also launched an aggressive campaign with the Indian cricket captain M.S Dhoni urging viewers to watch soccer.

The company said it had managed to sell nearly 85 per cent of the annual ad inventory even before the start of the league. The company has so far got six key advertisers on board, such as Tata Motors, Tata Telservices, Nokia India, Pernord Ricard, Adidas, Amul (Gujarat Co-operation Milk Marketing Federation) as associate sponsors.

DTH and digital cable viewers will be able to choose their language of choice under the dual audio feed system. The focus on Hindi will also be seen in the non-live programming so that first-time soccer viewers can understand the nuances of the game and get familiar with soccer clubs.

Vijay Rajput, Chief Operating Officer, ESPN Software India, said, “We believe there is a huge potential for growth in soccer viewership, especially with BPL being one of the most watched leagues worldwide.”

He said the broadcaster wanted to expand the sports viewing base with its multi-sport content portfolio. In soccer, the broadcaster has rights for Barclays Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, the English FA Cup and England international matches and AFC Events.

Talking about the Hindi commentary, Rajput said, “The focus on English commentary and graphics by sports broadcasters till date has been a big deterrent in viewership growth. We believe that if you want people to consume a lot of content, you should offer it to them in their language of comfort. India has about 125 million people who speak English, as compared to 400 million viewers who understand Hindi.”

meenakshi.v@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 16, 2013)
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