Television

'Star Pravah is only entertainment channel with 25% of content aimed at males': Star Pravah channel head Nachiket Pantvaidya

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Star Pravah had a bad start and had to rework on its programming strategy to keep in pace with rivals Zee Marathi and ETV Marathi. Now having found the right content mix and being aggressive in buying movie rights, the channel leads the ratings chart.

Launching with culturally rich shows like Raja Shivchhatrapati and Agnihotra, the channel changed track and is now focusing on contemporary content reflecting today?s lifestyle. It is betting big on movies and is willing to pay high prices.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com's Gaurav Laghate, Star Pravah channel head Nachiket Pantvaidya talks about the channel's programming plans and the challenges of the Marathi market.

Excerpts:

Q. After joining on 1 April last year, Star Pravah has grown in the Marathi general entertainment genre. What has worked in your favour?



From 120 GRPs during the last IPL, we have grown to 250 GRPs today. While the ratings are just a number, we have come a long way because we got the right strategy in place.

Q. Star Pravah started with a show like Raja Shivchhatrpati and other shows portraying rich Marathi culture. Today, the shows are more on the contemporary day-to-day life. Are you talking of this shift in strategy?



We believe that whatever the content is, it needs to reflect the society of today. So while we respect the 'Maharashtrian' culture, we are focussed on catering to today's generation.

With the help of our researches and various contact programmes, we have realised that our viewers, staying in whatever part of Maharashtra, are global citizens with big dreams and aspirations. They understand the importance of values versus the changes that are happening in the current economic scenario. With our programming, we are constantly portraying "today's Maharashtra".

Q. Marathi viewer is equally comfortable with Hindi. And if Hindi GECs are offering same shows, doesn't it pose a challenge?



One of the major challenges is that a Marathi viewer is equally comfortable in watching Hindi general entertainment channels, news and sports. So we decided to work not just like a Marathi entertainment channel but an entertainment vehicle. We focus on being concurrent as well as on entertaining our viewers.

And it is paying also. In the last eight weeks we have been ahead of the Hindi GECs. In the week ended 26 May, we clocked 256 GRPs, highest for the channel so far.

Q. From programming point of view, what is the thought process behind the shows?



All our shows are based on unique themes and we promote the idea of positive bright relationships.

Our shows like Bhandaa Saukhya Bhare (game show between saas-bahu), Devyani, Pudhcha Paaul, Swapnanchya Palikadle, and upcoming Laxmi Vs Saraswati portray today's time, today's value system and ask relevant questions.

We have kept the packaging the same? the dresses, attires, setups are still the same, but our approach is very modern.

Also, we are the only entertainment channel with 25 per cent of the FPC dedicated to the male audience. We decided to have differentiated content, so from 9.30 pm till 10.30 pm we show Lakshya (crime drama) and Anolkhi Disha (supernatural) to cater to the male audience. In future we would also like to create some shows for the kids audience as we are a wholesome entertainment channel.

'The ratings of TV premiere of Marathi movies have doubled. We are progressive and aggressive in the film acquisition space and want better production value, for which a better price is justified '

Q. What are the other genres you are exploring?



We would like to explore genres like comedy, thriller and socially relevant shows. We are sticking to our identity and will make sure that we offer the complete package.

Q. Many times a viewer is not happy with the quality of production. How are you tackling this issue?



A few of our shows are already being shot in high definition. And Shrabani Deodhar (creative director), at the helm of programming, makes sure our programming quality is no less than the Hindi GECs - at the price of Marathi GECs!

Q. You have been acquiring a lot of movies. How has it helped the channel?



We are bullish on acquiring movies as we want to see the Marathi film industry grow. So if you see, we have acquired a major chunk of movies, including all the three national award winning movies.

We are looking at buying the rights of these films prior to the release. And these films have helped us to aggregate the incremental viewers. With every blockbuster, new viewers come to sample the channel and we promote our other properties.

We have a good mix of high concept cinema as well as commercial films in our library. For high concept films we are investing in subtitling. We also put advertisements in English dailies so that a non-Marathi speaking viewer can also watch and enjoy good cinema.

Q But many players say that you are also spoiling the market with such high acquisition prices?



We want to write the resurgence story for the Marathi film industry. If you see, Maharashtra still has the lowest film acquisition price. If we keep doing hard bargain to acquire good films, it will drag us all down.

In today's time, the ratings of TV premiere of these movies have doubled and we can recover the cost of acquisition. And after all, the price is just any number; we want to be assured of good cinema. We are progressive and aggressive in the film space and want better production value, for which a better price is justified.

Today, all the big filmmakers in Maharashtra are willing to partner with us as we are expanding their market and trying to make the economic model work for them as well.

Q. How are you marketing the channel and the properties?



We know that as a late entrant in the market, we did not have the legacy to fall back on. Thus, we had to make that extra effort to reach out to our viewer. We have very extensive direct connect programmes and activities through which we keep reaching out to them.

We want to make the viewers realise that we love them, we know their aspirations and we try to meet and talk to them directly. So you will not see many hoardings from our side just announcing a new show; we will reach to the nook and corner of the state and will meet them in person. Our ground connect programme is very strong.

Q. And how is the response from the advertisers?



Today we are a big vehicle for the advertisers to put their message across. A big leap of thought for us is that economic and SEC classification is not a geographic concept anymore. The concept of rural and urban is not there. We see rural parts in metropolitans like Mumbai and Pune as well as an urban class in very small towns. We are working closely with the local brands to help give them a global identity.

Q. How is digitisation going to help you?



I believe that digitisation will benefit us more than anybody as the inequalities in the distribution business will iron out.

Q. How is being part of Star India helping you?



Today Star India has many No. 1 channels in the national as well as regional space. The group has done great in regional with faith that regional could be the new national. The group strength also helps us in leveraging resources.

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