STAR India, investing over Rs 100 crore in the technology meant for enhancing viewer experience for sports consumption, has announced the launch of its new website starsports.com. Currently in its beta form, the site gives Indian cricket fans a personalised audio-visual experience beyond television.
STAR has chalked an aggressive strategy for sports broadcasting. First, it acquired all the rights for Indian cricket, including those of internet and mobile, for Rs 3,851 crore, then it bought ESPN's stake in the joint venture, ESPN STAR Sports. In an earlier interview to Business Standard, Sanjay Gupta, chief operating officer at Star India, had mentioned the company would focus on enhancing the consumer experience, specially on digital and mobile platforms. In the latest development, STAR launched the beta version of starsports.com on December 25, and within the first week, the site has registered 2.5 million visitors, with an average time spent of over 15 minutes.
“We call this a video player as an alternative to television. Younger generation today spend increasingly more time on the internet and so we decided to significantly improve the quality of sports online and give them better experience than television,” Gupta said.
The website boasts of a video experience for cricket fans that includes high definition video streaming, an advanced player that can be individually controlled and the ability to catch up on the game through both a video scorecard and a video timeline that marks the key moments of the game.
The video timeline, which STAR claims is first on any such websites, marks key moments of a match, while it happens, allowing users to go back, revisit the moment and jump back into the action in real time. It has also revamped the commentary section, which not only focuses on explaining the action ball by ball, but also pulls in real time conversations on the social media while the match is on. Additional feature, the video scorecard, brings the statistics alive with video clips of key moments supported by detailed analytics and graphics.
Gupta said that while the website is free for now and offers only cricket, in a phased manner, it will start charging the users. “After a few months, we will start charging the users for the content. It may be on a per event or per month or per year basis. We will also add other sports on the site,” he said.
At present, espnstar.com offers other sports information and highlight and Gupta said that in 5-6 months, the site will drop ESPN name and phase out.
Starsports.com will remain predominantly a site for Indian market. If the company acquire rights for sports to telecast in other countries, it will offer the same in those countries as well.
Gupta believes that being the first of its kind, starsports.com will not see immediate competition but players like Ten Sports, Sony Six and Neo, once they get bullish on digital, will compete in the same space. However, “they have to acquire the rights of the sporting events for the same,” he added.