'In a genre that has seen a drop, Star Movies holds over 40% share' : Star Movies& Star World VP Jyotsna Viriyala

It has not been an easy year for Star‘s English channels. In a nine-player nine scenario, Star Movies, however, has weathered the storm and held on to its leadership position. Fine-tuning its strategy this year, the channel supplement its library with locally acquired titles.

Star World has created horizontal programming bands to suit the viewing habits. The channel, ranked second in the genre, has still to plug a few gaps in its programming.

In an interview with‘s Ashwin Pinto, Star Movies and Star World VP Jyotsna Viriyala elaborates on Star‘s plans for fortifying the position of the two channels.



How has Star Movies fine-tuned its strategy this year?

We are supplementing our library with locally acquired titles. We will also be more aggressive in our marketing.


Is this being pushed due to audience fragmentation with new entrants coming in?

Fragmentation ate into our nearest competitor‘s share, not ours. We managed to hold on to our share in a category that has seen a drop, thereby increasing market share. We currently hold over 40 per cent of the share in a nine-player scenario.



Which properties have delivered?

Our drivers are the ‘movie of the month,‘ the 9 pm and the 11 pm bands. Over the years we have ensured that the right mix of titles are acquired and made available on time. We have also focussed on creating appointment viewing.



Is there a different strategy in acquiring big titles this year?

The big releases include Alice In Wonderland, Percy Jackson, Australia and Avatar. The split between our library content and premieres remain largely unchanged in the coming year. Programming wise, the top three players are all playing the same combination of premieres and library content.

Of course, the proportion would vary depending on the specifics of strategy and budget. Earlier, Star Movies and HBO played in this space. Pix joined the race effectively over the last one year with some big premieres.



Have you created new blocks recently to cater to different TGs?

Every title airs at a time relevant to the TG available. No new blocks have been created, but we continue to have our 11 pm festivals and movies of the month.



‘In case of Star World there are some missing pieces and we do have plans in place to fill them shortly. Our choice of drama and sitcoms is being fine tuned‘



What strategy is being followed to reach viewers in the smaller towns and cities?

Our key audience resides in the metros and we are reaching them effectively. At the same time, there is the potential to reach out better to people across 27 million + towns. It is clear where we need to focus currently.



Last year you said that the focus would be on communicating to advertisers that they should spend more on this genre compared with English news channels…

We met with clients and embarked upon a ‘myth busting‘ exercise. All clients were positively surprised at the findings and they were going to ask their agencies for more information and re-evaluation of plans.

So that exercise did its job then. But it‘s a perception change exercise and when perceptions are so deep-rooted, it will take time for substantial results to start showing. But the good thing was that all clients were very receptive to the information.



Have viewers‘ perception of Star Movies changed over the years?

Research shows that Star Movies rates very high on perception and we believe that this has strengthened over the last one year.



Is there a lot of innovation in terms of the packages that Star Movies and Star World offer advertisers beyond the 30-second spot?

Yes. We invest resources, monies and time into providing solutions to our advertisers. For all substantial spenders, we extend huge value.



What new acquisitions were made for the two channels?

For Star World, we recently acquired the second season of Moment Of Truth and Masterchef Australia. We are in the process of reviewing content that was shown at other markets to make our selections.

On the movies front, we signed a deal with Disney for films. It is a package of new releases and library content. We are in the process of closing the deal with another leading studio.



Could you talk about the programme restructuring that Star World went through last year?

The restructuring of the schedule was done with the objective of creating appointment viewing on the channel. We created horizontal programming bands to suit the viewing habits of the viewer better.

We have seen a 24 per cent increase in viewership after this change over the previous quarter. If we replicated the scheduling pattern that is followed in the US, we would not be able to build viewing habit or attract newer audiences.



Data shows that Star World‘s share has only grown marginally and it is still a clear number two. What is the missing piece in the game plan to catch up with competition?

Data shows that the gap has reduced substantially. We have been number one twice in the last few weeks in digital homes. We have been number one now for the last 9 of 12 weeks, even amongst the SEC A,B audiences. There has been growth. Directionally therefore, we believe, we are on the right track.

But you‘re right. There are some missing pieces and we do have plans in place to fill them shortly. Our choice of drama and sitcoms is being fine tuned. We have acquired popular shows like Moment Of Truth. It‘s no secret that we will have Koffee With Karan. This is just a sample of what will populate the year‘s calendar.


Is Star World also creating time slots for different TGs?

Well, not really. There is a core TG that we will cater to and all programming will necessarily appeal to this. What we will do is schedule in a manner that will best suit the audience present at any hour.



Is Star World looking at any local initiatives?

Yes we are. It is definitely a part of our programming mix.


What is the criterion for selecting shows for Star World?

Core audience appeal and fit with channel imagery are the foremost criteria. ‘Appeal‘ of course has many layers and is dictated by our understanding of the core audience and the role our channel plays in his/her life. 


While action thriller remains the most watched content in this genre, the lifestyle quotient has picked up and has replaced comedies as second most popular. Have audience tastes changed recently?

That‘s true. Lifestyle has indeed picked up. However, I would not go as far as saying that they have replaced comedies because it depends on the sitcom in question.

Audience tastes have evolved as the environment around them changed. Spa and luxury holidays were not within reach earlier. A wine trail or Latin American dancing were even more niche earlier. Stand up comedy was not so big earlier.



The two channels use digital marketing a lot. How effective is it compared to traditional media?

We have been heavily using digital media. Television, though, will remain the primary vehicle in our media plans.


New players like FX are coming in. Will this boost viewership share for the genre or simply cause fragmentation?

If there is more of the same thing, then fragmentation is a given. Because nearly 80 per cent of the English general entertainment viewership comes from less than 20 per cent audience. Even if there are gains, they will be marginal.

Unless you can get sampling from light viewers or maybe non-viewers, a viewership boost is difficult. We will be doing our bit to expand the genre.

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