In China, Star takes to the wireless

MUMBAI: We really believe in this market and to help expand the pie, all players should work together. A point made by Star Group CEO Michelle Guthrie in an address at the recently concluded Ficci Frames 2004. 

Well, a clear route in that pie expansion exercise is via wireless. Though leveraging wireless is still to wing its way into Star India's operations in any significant way, expect some major initiatives on that score from India's lead broadcaster sooner rather than later.

According to Star Group senior V-P Mani Rao, Rupert Murdoch's Asian broadcast arm has identified four clear revenue stream going forward - subscription, advertising, syndication and wireless.

In China in particular, utilising wireless has proved a strong incremental revenue stream as well as helped build stronger links to Star's community of viewers, says Rao. The high cell phone penetration in China has been a big factor in its quick take-off no doubt.

Star Group V-P corporate affairs and publicity Jannie Poon outlined to how well wireless has worked for Star in China. It has been less than a year (June 2003) since launch, and what Star China is doing is to leverage the exclusive and popular content on its Mandarin language channels - general entertainment Xing Kong and Channel [V]. 

The wireless services are of two kinds - subscription and non-subscription based. And the numbers are impressive.

For the subscription based service, Star charges about $1 per month per subscriber. Currently there are about 200,000 monthly subscription-based members.

An example of how it works is the popular dating cum reality show Love Factory. Subscribers to Love Factory wireless services get love horoscopes, dating tips and dating games, among other things as download options. They also get to be part of Love Factory clubs in which members are hooked up through wireless. 

An example of non-subscription based services was the Channel [V] Chinese Music Awards, wherein Star received more than 2 million SMS for voting of best songs, best female singer, etc of the year, says Poon.

The potential of wireless is huge, says Rao. How it rolls out on Star in India will of course be closely watched.

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