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SINGAPORE -- ESPN Star Sports, a joint venture between ESPN Inc. and News Corp.'s Star TV, has launched a Hindi-language edition of SportsCenter -- ESPN's flagship program in the U.S. -- as part of the channel's ongoing localization strategy in India.

SportsCenter debuted in 1979 in the U.S. as a highlight show on ESPN, and the program is now seen in more than 150 million households outside the U.S. on 20 international networks.

The Hindi version of the half-hour sports news program, which is produced in Singapore and broadcast on weeknights, includes international headline news, news and rankings about cricket and soccer, as well as features, analysis and guest commentators.

"Localization sends the message that we are listening and catering to viewership needs," said Rik Dovey, managing director, ESPN Star Sports, Singapore. "With so much to offer on television, people want relevant content and familiarity. We believe the Hindi edition of the world's most watched news program will grow our ESPN fan base to yet another level."

Almost 456 million (66%) Indians understand Hindi, compared to 142 million who speak English. On preferred language of TV viewing, Hindi leads at 268 million, followed by English and Marathi at 40 million and Tamil at 37 million, according to the Indian Readership Survey 2000.

Meanwhile, Simon Yu, the channel's veteran senior VP-affiliate sales, has resigned from ESPN Star Sports. He joined ESPN Asia in 1993, long before the company's joint venture with Star TV in 1996, but in a mutual agreement with the company, he will not renew his contract, which expires June 30. -- Normandy Madden

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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