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Star Sports plans a makeover

By Suveen K Sinha & Bhuma Shrivastava in New Delhi
August 30, 2006 12:10 IST
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The Mandira Bedi phenomenon will rear its head again as STAR Sports seeks to acquire an irreverent and frothy identity, distinct from its sibling ESPN, which will continue to be a sports channel high on analysis.

The makeover has just begun, with STAR Sports bringing on board two women commentators and anchors: Channel V veejay Paula Malai Ali and actress Jamie Yeo.

Funny man Andy Penders will be the face of the channel in South East Asia. Among more familiar faces, one is likely to run into the likes of Shekhar Suman.

ESPN's faces and voices will continue to be the team billed "A Few Good Men": Sunil Gavaskar, Harsha Bhogle, and Geoffrey Boycott. Ravi Shastri's positioning is still being worked out.

There is also a language shift in the offing. STAR Sports, though with no intention to become a 24x7 Hindi channel, will have a generous sprinkling of the national language across its programmes.

ESPN's programmes, on the other hand, will continue to have men in neck ties, sitting behind desks and speaking in English.

"We are in the middle of a major strategy shift where we create different identities for ESPN and STAR Sports, in an effort to reach out to a larger audience," said Jamie Davis, ESPN Star Sports managing director.

In terms of programming, cricket, the driver sport in this part of the world, will be distributed evenly between the two channels. However, ESPN will focus more on sports events, news, and analysis.

The hallmark of the channel will be Sportscenter, whose Asia and India versions have been on air for a while.

STAR Sports, having dropped Sportsline, whose content was the same as Sportscenter's, will have an increasingly higher dosage of reality shows, light-hearted chat shows, and spoofs.

"We will provide diversity, and find focused audience and advertisers," said Davis.

To strengthen the separate identities, it has been decided not to let talent jump across the two channels. There will also be differences in the ways the graphics are presented.

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Suveen K Sinha & Bhuma Shrivastava in New Delhi
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