New Delhi: Indian cricket fans away from television sets might still be able to watch player-turned-commentator Wasim Akram dissect a match in the upcoming World Cup—on their mobile phones. Or if their phone don’t have video screens, they can still tune in to hear fellow commentator Harsha Bhogle’s ball-by-ball account.
Next month, sports broadcaster ESPN Software India Pvt. Ltd will launch Mobile ESPN, a service that will allow fans to hear live commentaries, watch live video clips and participate in various Cup-related programmes via cellphones.
Last week, ESPN Inc. announced a similar deal in the US to broadcast various sports with telecommunications company Verizon Wireless under the same name, Mobile ESPN.
In India, agreements have been finalized with mobile service providers Hutch, Airtel, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd, Idea and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. “We hope to seal a deal with Tata Indicom and Reliance before the tournament begins,” ESPN’s head of new media Sricharan Iyengar said.
Iyengar conceded that fans on the move would not opt for Mobile ESPN if they had access to radio. Yet, he said he was confident of reaching 100 million subscribers in the next five years and of generating Rs100 crore.
Mobile ESPN has tried this before, making a soft launch late last year during the India-South Africa series . Fans had to pay Rs6 per minute.
On Tuesday, the hotline was still in test runs. Mint’s attempts to phone in resulted in two minutes spent answering the preliminary recorded questions —for Rs 12. Listening to a five-minute over will cost Rs30, in addition to the initial Rs12.
ESPN wants to streamline this aspect, and has decided to offer month-long subscriptions. The service will be available in Hindi and English, and, by June, in Bengali and Tamil .
Rohan Mishra, a fan who represents a UK-based cricket management company in India, said Mobile ESPN would come in handy for people preferring to hear live commentary during work hours .“Following a match on the Internet does not give the same thrill,” he said.
As the World Cup begins in the West Indies, however, the mobile service might have to contend with matches broadcast late into the Indian fans’ night—when most would have access to their television sets.