DTH

Star's DTH plan high on Guthrie's India agenda: report

MUMBAI: Star's Indian DTH platform is a priority for newly appointed Group chief executive Michelle Guthrie, as is "getting paid for the subs (subscribers) we aren't getting paid for."



These are some of Guthrie's thoughts on her newly acquired position and plans for the future given in an interview to the monthly magazine Television Asia .

Also high on Guthrie's agenda is a hunt for new channels in India and elsewhere. The India channel roadmap includes a children's channel (Disney??) and a companion to the loner at the top, Star Plus (free-to-air Star Classic??), she says in the interview. "I think there is a lot more advertising growth left in the [Indian] market," is her assessment.

"In India, the TV ad market is $500-$600 million. We are going to bump up against that. If we have even 100 out of 100 programmes, the ad pie is going to constrain our growth unless we start growing the pie," she tells Television Asia . Guthrie's long term plans include trying to expand the TV advertising markets in the countries in which Star operates, to expand the subscription markets, and "really, to readdress the balance of where that subscription money goes." Guthrie did express satisfaction that subscriber declaration in India had "doubled in the last three years from five million to more than 10 million."

As for DTH, she is hopeful that arrangements can be worked out so Star can get a licence next year ,"so that we can launch as soon as possible."

The Television Asia article quotes a September 2003 Deutsche Bank report as valueing Star India at between $1.8 billion and $2.4 billion. If we accept the upper figure, it means that Star India accounts for 80 per cent of the total value that Star Asia is pegged at - which is $3 billion. The Deutsche Bank report projects Star Asia as growing to a $4.5 billion valuation by 2006.

Guthrie, who pipped several contenders to the post, surprising many regular media observers, joined Star in Hong Kong in June 2000. Before that, she was director of legal and business affairs at Foxtel in Australia. She also worked as corporate counsel in London for News International and British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB). She joined News Corporation in 1994 from Australian law firm Allen, Allen and Hemsley.

While she doesn't rule out the platform acquisition route, she does maintain that India and Greater China will remain Star's core markets. It is scale and content that have worked to Star's advantage particularly in India, Guthrie tells Television Asia.

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