Television

'Star One is the number three GEC in the country in ratings' : Prem Kamath - Star India VP marketing and Communication

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A lot of flip-flop happening in the Hindi general entertainment channels. Yet Star Plus is the leader in the game, while Star One has consolidated its position on the back of new shows and re-positioning itself.

In conversation with Indiantelevision's Nasrin Sultana, Star India VP marketing and communication Prem Kamath talks about Star Plus and the kind of resurgence up on Star One.

Excerpts:

How has 2007 been for Star India?

I think it has been a good year of consolidation. Lots of changes have happened within the organisation and in the market as well. But I think the initiatives that we have undertaken had shaped quite well for consolidation.

How is Star Plus taking the competition further, when Zee TV is edging close to it in terms of ratings?

Zee TV saw an increase in the ratings post Sa Re Ga Ma Pa launch, which had narrowed the gap between Star Plus and Zee. Though there are a number of other things that have happened in Star Plus which have pushed the channel back to its place. Particularly the last four to five weeks' data clearly say that Star Plus is considerably ahead of Zee. Several initiatives that we launched further strengthened our position. A weekly fiction based show called Sangam was launched in August. With Sangam, we extended our prime time to 7 pm, followed by Santan at 7:30 pm. Santan is doing extremely well in its time band with 2+ rating. Bidaai, which launched in the 9 pm slot is fetching good numbers. All the newly launched shows cumulatively have consolidated our position in the genre.

What was the reason for extending prime time?

Traditionally prime time was always considered to have started from 7:30 pm. But a regular viewer of TV generally gets near the TV around 7, so we thought why not extend our prime time. It sort of prepares the viewers for bigger shows lined up from 8:30 pm.

Is it true that one of Star Plus' big ticket shows - Kasautii Zindagii Kay - is going off air?

Yes it is. It has reached its end. It was a mutual decision taken by both Star and Balaji. For further details you have to wait for a formal announcement.

Star Plus poached Gajendrra Siingh and his whole team for Star Voice of India, yet it could not fetch the kind of business that Star Plus was looking forward to. What were the reasons that producers of an old and successful show like Sa Ra Ga Ma could not deliver so well on the Star platform?

Any show's success is attributed to three or four parameters. There is no direct comparison between the two yet there are some. Sa Re… is an eight to nine years old show, and Star VOI just debuted this year. I think for the first year it has fetched good TRPs. It has garnered 4 to 4.5 TRPs. Besides, it has been extremely consistent with ads. Above all, it has been able to give competition to an old and established show.

Soon after VOI reached its finale, you had Chhote Ustaad to compete with Zee's Li'l Champs on the same slot? Where is the differentiated programming?

It was part of an intended move to retain viewership of the VOI slot. It enjoyed a TRP of 2.8 in its initial weeks. As far as reality shows are concerned, I think these kinds of shows build and develop a relationship with the contestants. The viewers come back on the same show for the bondage that they share with the participants.

How has the story of Star One been shaping up now?

What you see now in Star One gives you a feel of serious resurgence. Star One is the number three GEC in the country in ratings. In the last four to five weeks, we have been garnering about 76 GRPs in all day parts, which is about 49 per cent up as compared to the period four weeks before that. This is on the back of the four properties that we have launched recently.

We launched Dil Mil Gaye, which has touched a TRP of 2, Annu ki hoi gaya Wah Bhai Wah, Choona Hain Aasman, we are launching Pari Hoon Main in the next week, which kind of completes our week day prime time. In the week end we have launched Bol Baby Bol which again has a TRP of 2. We have tasted fair success with Chak De Punjabi. There are lots of vacant time bands in Star One which has not been programmed. There are couple of other shows which will make Star One as the big player in the space.

With so many launches are you reinventing Star One?

Yes we are, I mean kind of. Star One was one of the most successful launches seen in the space. We had a great success story. But yes, somewhere down the line, we shifted focus for a variety of reasons. In terms of programming, Star One ended up becoming very similar to Star Plus. What we are doing now is to re-define Star One's programming for a differentiated market.

Star One is now completely redesigned, with a universal appeal, yet differentiated. If you take Bol Baby Bol, hosted by Adnan Sami. It is a reality format show, which has mass appeal, yet it is differentiated as it is a lyrics based show. This is a first of its kind show in India. This goes out for Annu ki…, Pari Hoon Main, Dil mil Gaye and Choona Hain Aasman.

Shows of this kind have a lot of drama in them, yet they are differentiated. Context and sensibility makes them differentiated.

'Nach Baliye grew so huge that it needed a bigger platform than Star One could afford to provide'

Do you think that at one point of time Star One was almost a shadow of Star Plus?

Hmm, yes when more than a year back, when some of the shows of Star Plus were brought on Star One. Somewhere there had been a duplication of identity.

But now Star One has defined itself and is certainly differentiated from Star Plus in all respects. Star Plus is a complete family entertainer while Star One's TG is fixed at the 25-34 age in the top 20 cities.

When Star One launched, it had set its TG as totally urban youth. Do you think the TG could not contribute anything to Star One's success?

What happened was, by default, whatever shows were on air were urban skewed. But some of the programmes did have universal appeal. Like Nach Baliye, which had a phenomenal success, had universal appeal. Same goes for The Great Indian Laughter Challenge.

A flagship show like Nach Baliye, which has its contribution in putting Star One in the success grid was shifted to an already successful channel and Star One was left only with The Great Indian Laughter Challenge?

Nach Baliye is a big show. With every year, it grew in volume and economies. It grew so huge that it needed a bigger platform than Star One could afford to provide. The show was so large that it needed a platform like Star Plus to do justice to it. The shift has also got some new shows infused in Star one. It is not that Nach Baliye was uprooted from Star One and nothing was done to Star One. We had a series of launches after it. The good news is that even when Star One does not have Nach Baliye, yet it is on the verge of becoming number three in the GEC space.

Even The Great Indian Laughter Challenge has been taken off from Star One?

It is only in its seasonal break. It will come back in a couple of months. There was fatigue after the three seasons were back-to-back.

Did Comedy Circus on Sony contribute to the fatigue?

I think Comedy Circus was after LC. It did not have any effect.

Star One is re-running its popular show Sarabhai vs Sarabhai in its prime time at 9:30 pm. Why not bring it back with new episodes?

Lots of people are asking for it. Logistically we are working out the possibilities.

How do you shape up your marketing for the various properties that Star India has?

We always get the consumer engaged and get the consumer to experience the brand. Many properties on Star Plus have been marketed well on ground activities. Our effort is to shift the focus from mass media to on ground, engaging one-to-one communication with the consumers. Information has to be transferred to the consumer without any barrier in between. That is what an on-ground activity does. It breaks the barrier.

Properties have been marketed well, whether it's the on-ground event, road show or a mega event. We are constantly getting more and more into it. It is what we call engagement model. It is nothing but to engage the viewers with the brand, so that they experience more of the brand. We have rounded off 16-20 cities. Before any launch, we actually do a variety of activities and events in these cities.

Do you see the launch of NDTV Imagine as a threat, if not to Star Plus and Zee, then at least to the lower rung channels where competition is getting tougher?

The space will get fragmented. Connection with the audience is the best way to beat the competition. Star plus has been doing it extremely well and it will continue to do so.

Some of the major content providers like Hats Off, Sagar Arts and SOL are also working on the up-coming channels. Do you agree that is going to create some conflict?

I agree that producers bring a lot to the table. With so many channels floating in the market, I do not think duplication of content can be at all avoided. A show being successful has many factors to it. First is the content, second is the platform it is on, and third is the relationship with it.

Coming to Star World, you launched some TG specific shows in the middle of 2007. How has been the response?

We introduced some familiar shows which got tremendous response, especially for the SEC A, which is the TG of the channel. Shows like Heroes and Desperate Housewives are working tremendously well. But we have to understand that the Star World universe is relatively very small.

How does the story look like with Star Gold?

It is faring well. It is after Set Max and neck and neck with Zee Cinema. There have been lots of other properties that Star Gold pioneered like Star Gold Sabse Favourite Kaun and Star Gold Comedy Honours.

Earlier Star Gold had dubbed movies, now there are movies channels completly dedicated to dubbed content. Which markets do dubbed content work?

It works all across all the markets. Some of the films really work. Films which have good action and thrills work well in this genre.

What was new to Star Plus in 2007? What's on the cards?

What you see now is certainly some freshness in its content, with some new launches in the year- Bidaai, Jai Maa Durga. We will get periodic innovation in the channel as and when required. Nothing is to be changed now.

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