Star Plus, the flagship channel of the Star Network, completes a year of turning a 24-hour Hindi channel 3 July.
Yesterday, the team behind what has been an eventful year for the Rupert Murdoch-promoted channel were out in strength at the Taj Hotel in South Mumbai and made no bones about the fact that they intended to put even more "blue sky" between themselves and rivals Zee and Sony.
And the new strategy that Sameer Nair, executive vice-president, head of content & communication, Star India has chalked out for the immediate term is on two fronts. Star is sitting pretty on the 9:00pm to 11:00pm band Mondays to Thursdays (gameshow Kaun Banega Crorepati airs 9-10pm Monday to Wednesday; followed by the superhit soaps from the Balaji stable Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki - both four days). But next month will see the launch of a slew of new shows on Fridays - what Star Plus has termed power-packed Friday nights. Nair calls it Friday entertainment for the family. And for Sunday mornings Star has lined up devotional inspiration. Till 10:00am that is. Which is when Junior KBC comes on air where it's back to pure greed as the driving force.
For the Friday slot, starting 27 July, Star Plus is launching a talent show, Kya Masti Kya Doon with film star Sonali Bendre as the anchor at 8:00 PM At 9:00 PM is Khulja Sim Sim, an Indian version of Lets Make a Deal. And at 10:00pm it will be Ssshhhh... Koi Hai..., a horror series. In Masti Kya Dhoom,comparisons to Sony's popular dance talent hunt show Boogie Woogie are inevitable but Star officials are quick to point out that it is not only dance which will be showcased, but also music, mimicry, acting, etc. The differentiation in the viewer's mind will be important because a me-too dance talent show that Zee launched with former Channel [V] host Ruby Bhatia as the presenter sank without a trace almost before it went on air.
Masti is produced by Vandana Malik and the Television Eighteen team, better known as the content providers for CNBC India. Khulja Sim Sim, up next at 9pm, is a licenced copy of Let's Make A Deal, a popular show which ran successfully in the USA from 1963 to 1990. It is currently on air in Germany, Greece, Hungary, Spain and Italy. The show is presented by popular TV actor Aman Verma of Kyunki Saas... fame.
Khulja is produced by Optimystix Productions and directed by Vipul Shah. Sunday mornings, on the other hand, are devoted to devotional shows. From Aatma, discourses from Bhagwat Gita, at 7:00am, to Dharam Aur Hum, a devotional musical journey with Anup Jalota, to mythological Jap Tap Vratt at 9:00 am.
Next on the agenda for the Star team? To push back the evening prime time band from the current 8:00 PM to 11:00 PM slot.
Star is looking to launch a new show at 7:30 PM sometime in the middle of August, Nair says. The show is a situational comedy being produced by Shrey Guleri who also made the popular Tu Tu Mein Mein sitcom, according to Nair.
This is a first as far as channels go, Nair says, pointing to the fact that the 7-8pm slot doesn't normally have fresh content as it is considered a non prime time slot.
And that is how Nair hopes Star will retain its numero uno position - by constantly executing innovative concepts.