ESPN Star Sports targets 50% growth in S Asia

ESPN Star Sports is targeting a 50% growth in South Asia in 2006-07 on the back of the FIFA World Cup. According to ESPN Software India vice president sales and marketing, Sricharan Lyengar, the satellite sports broadcaster is maintaining its subscription revenues from Indian cable TV operators while direct-to-home (DTH) has thrown up "an added opportunity" with Dish TV claiming close to one million DTH subscribers and new operator, Tata Sky, preparing for launch by the middle of the year. The "peripheral markets" of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are also expected to grow.

"We plan to make the World Cup bigger than India cricket," he told India Television. "That, at least, is what we will strive for. The frenzy has to flow into the rest of the football properties that we have and drive in more viewership for the English Premier League and Spanish League. The World Cup will create a bunch of new superstars who audiences will follow even after the event is over. Undoubtedly, the two leagues where these superstars will play are the EPL and the Spanish League. We hope to improve the stickiness for that kind of football as well. The big challenge for us is to exploit the World Cup in driving a new spike for football in future."

Asked what are the goals have been set for the World Cup, Lyengar said he expected the strong content "will provide us the handle to get our channels back on some of the cable networks where we were off and drive in higher revenues. Besides, it will help us reduce the average credit period in the market. With the World Cup, we will also start focusing in rural markets. We have packages for these operators ... What we need to do now is sell them ... We should have marketed EPL ... five years back when we dominated cricket content. As market leaders, we should have used the opportunity to popularise multiple sports as drivers."