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Just over a year old, UTV Stars is banking on revenue growth from advertising, syndication and distribution to achieve operational break even this fiscal.


The launch of UTV Stars last August has expanded the Bollywood lifestyle TV genre, created by Zoom and E24. The core target audience of the channel is upscale youth in the age group of 15-24 years.


In an interview with‘s Javed Farooqui, UTV Stars business head Nikhil Gandhi talks about the channel‘s progress, its differentiated content and the challenges in the space.




Does UTV Stars get a competitive advantage by being the child of Disney-UTV?

We definitely have an edge as we have got a thriving motion pictures business. This allows us to do that much more compared to our competitors. Our access to the big Bollywood stars such as Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor or a Hrithik Roshan is much easier. If you see the kind of news content that we create, we are credible.


Since UTV Stars‘ sister arm also produces movies, doesn‘t that also present a conflict of interest while covering Bollywood news?

Once you have established yourself as a credible player in the space, I don‘t think any star or film producer would think that there is a conflict of interest. They, in fact, would want to promote their films that much more. Moreover, our editor is Manish Dubey who was with Aaj Tak and has credible bondage with the movie stars. Also, our correspondents as well as special features editors have professional relationships with all the big superstars.


Isn‘t differentiation very thin in this kind of genre?

When we started, we positioned UTV Stars as the official channel of Bollywood. We were also known as being the intimate insider to Bollywood. We got all the big stars to endorse and that reflected in our launch campaign. We did a big chat show with Priety Zinta. We also did a show called ‘Live My Life‘ which is coming up for its second season after the channel‘s first anniversary on 19 August. Our channel is also available in High Definition, taking the viewing experience to a whole new level.


How is your content mix different from other rival channels?

On a daily basis, we have three and half hours of original content while the others offer three hours. So we have half-an-hour of additional content. This is largely because we have original long format shows, giving our channel a differentiated value. You won‘t see big ticket reality shows on other channels.


We run Bollywood music and movies but news and shows form a large portion of our prime time content. We play music in non-prime time because the TG loves it and because Bollywood music lends itself well with the channel. 


‘On a daily basis, we have three and half hours of original content while the rival channels offer three hours. So we are half-an-hour of additional content‘

How would you define your target group?

We are in the youth space but have a definite skew towards Bollywood. In terms of demographics, our core target group is 15-24 SEC AB. Bollywood stars influence the youth of India a great deal. In that sense, the kind of content that we have created caters to the Indian youth. So even though Bollywood content cuts across age groups, we are going to focus on youth particularly after the kind of success that we have seen online.


Could you elaborate on the online growth?

We have almost half a million fans on Facebook. We are also the largest content provider for Bollywood content on YouTube and have already got 30 million views. We power the UTV group content engine on YouTube per se including UTV Motion Pictures. We have got 10,000 hours of content that we had shot last year. All this gives us a cutting edge.


What is the break even period that you have set for yourself?

We are looking at an operational break-even next year (FY‘ 13). With the kind of control that we have on our costs and if the markets start improving, we should be able to reach that milestone.


What impact did ad slowdown have on your revenues?

We experienced a bit of a volume loss but our big shows also get a premium. The advertising community is also appreciating the kind of content that we have been able to create and they are now talking to us for annual deals going forward.


Who are your big advertisers?

We have all the top advertisers that occupy the youth space. Like in FMCG, we have Hindustan Unilever, P&G and L‘Oreal. We run about 10 minutes of commercial in one hour of programming, which can go up to 12 minutes. 


What are the major revenue streams for UTV Stars?

Currently, ad revenues contribute 60-75 per cent of our overall revenues. But we would like to bring this down to 50-55 per cent and with digitisation we are hopeful that this shift will happen. We are also looking at syndication opportunities overseas as well as in India. We are already syndicating in-flight entertainment across big airlines. Our business model includes distribution, syndication, video on demand, ad revenue and on-ground events.


You have been quite aggressive with on-ground properties?

So far as ground connect goes, we have been able to rope in partners who are in the lifestyle and Bollywood space. So we had partnered People magazine to do the ‘People Best Dressed‘ show; we had also partnered Cosmopolitan to do ‘Free Fearless Awards‘. Besides, we also did ‘F1 After Parties‘ with Arjun Rampal.


However, the biggest property we did was ‘Walk of the Stars‘ at Bandra Bandstand (Mumbai) where we had the biggest stars giving their hand impressions. It‘s like the Hollywood Walk of the Fame. We got the Walk of the Stars branded as UTV Walk of the Stars as a permanent structure and it has also got statues and benches of legendary stars from Raj Kapoor to Shammi Kapoor and now Rajesh Khanna. We are taking it to Delhi next year and it‘s going to be available at Kingdom of Dreams. We tied up with IIFA Awards this year and took this property to Singapore. 


What big shows are on the anvil?

There is ‘Nirma Lifestyle‘ season 2 that is coming up in the quarter beginning October. We have another show called ‘Gods of Style‘ coming up where we are going to showcase top 10 style icons in Bollywood. We have four more shows in the pipeline about which I can‘t reveal much at this stage.


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