Television

Star, ABP announce divorce; Star News to be ABP News

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MUMBAI: Star and Ananda Bazar Patrika (ABP) Group said Monday they were parting ways, allowing the Rupert Murdoch-controlled company to retreat from the news business in India to focus on entertainment.

Star's decision comes in the wake of the current regulatory environment and structural issues ailing the news genre in India. The government caps foreign direct investment at 26 per cent in TV news, making it less attractive for foreign investments to pour into a sector that is hit hard by slow revenue growth, high carriage and staff costs and an abundance of players.

The discontinuation in phases will complete within 2-4 months. Indiantelevision.com had earlier reported that Star would exit the TV news business in India and would split from ABP within three months, finally selling its 26 per cent stake.

With the divorce, the eight-year affiliation with the 'Star' brand has come to an end. Media Content and Communications (MCCS), the company that owns and operates the news channels, said Monday that after the split, Hindi news channel Star News would be named ABP News, Bengali news channel Star Ananda would become ABP Ananda and the Marathi news channel Star Majha would be called ABP Majha.

Says MCCS chief executive officer Ashok Venkatramani, ?Star and ABP have decided to discontinue the Brand Agreement where Star News has lent the brand to MCCS. Right now Star continues to be a shareholder in MCCS."

ABP, whose core business is news, will continue to ?promote and establish? its own brands in the broadcast news space through its subsidiary company - MCCS.

Media buyers have expressed concern about the shedding of the 'Star' brand. "Hindi news channel Star News could be hit the hardest as 'Star' is a strong brand with its popular entertainment channels having a tremendous impact in the Hindi heartland. There may not be any impact in West Bengal where ABP is a stronger news brand, with its overwhelming print presence. There will be a need to promote the new branding, though all of us know that ABP has a credible equity in the news arena," says the head of a media buying outfit on condition of anonymity.

Agrees Lintas Media Group head of planning-Mumbai Dhirendra Singh. ?The change in the brand may take some time to sink in. Considering the competitive environment in Hindi news genre, media planners /buyers would like the channel to stabilise first and then invest on it.?

Crest COO Karthik Lakshminarayan believes that the challenge for ABP would be to maintain its ratings. ?As far as the channel maintains its content quality and ratings, I do not see any reason for advertisers to shy away from the channel,? he says.

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