Television

'We will fight competition with innovative content' : Anupam Vasudev- Star India EVP marketing and communications

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It's rearguard action time at Star Plus. Edged out after a nine-year life at the top, Star Plus is making moves to shed off the "saas-bahu" image that stuck on to the channel.

What followed is a flurry of differentiated content. While Kiran Bedi played judge on social issues in Aap Ki Kachehri, matrimonial show Star Vivah gave a platform to many prospective brides and grooms.

Star Plus also experimented with shows like Paanchvi Paas that made no major impact on its ratings.

The big show now is Sach Ka Saamna, an adaptation of the bold and sensational The Moment Of Truth.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com's Anindita Sarkar, Star India EVP marketing and communications Anupam Vasudev talks about Star Plus' road ahead as the channel takes up the challenge to regain its leadership position and widen the gap with its rivals.

Excerpts:

The first half of the year has really been interesting with the GEC space witnessing the rise of three strong players at the top. Does this mean the absolute end to the Star monopoly?

The game is not yet over. We had nine years of undisputed leadership and it's been a great run for us. Look, in all categories and businesses, competition does catch up at some point of time - and they have caught up with us. In the last couple of months there have been ups and downs in the top three category, but we were never out of the game. In fact there were weeks when we did come back to the number one spot. So these things will keep happening in terms of the top three players for a while until one of them breaks away to rein the top slot singularly. We are ensuring that Star Plus is the one that breaks away from the lot to establish its leadership one more time.

So how do you plan to break away from the top three league?

As you can see, there is a whole new programming that is being brought in to Star Plus. We have just launched Sach Ka Saamna in the non-fiction category. We will be launching a new fiction show, Sajan Ghar Jaana Hai, very soon. We are also firming up our fiction category further with a couple of new shows, lined up for the next two to three months.

We will also continue to strengthen our existing offerings and products that have the potential to grow like iconic shows Yeh Rishta... and Bidaai and recent launches such as Mitwa and Laadli.

So we are bringing across a lot of innovative content to fight competition and ensure that we retain our leadership with consistency - and with enough gap from everyone else.

Though you have a loyal base of 200 plus GRPs coming in from fiction and non-fiction show, content like events and films are also impacting a further 30 GRPs. Does this mean that you are also banking a lot of such content to push up your GRP grades?

For a GEC channel, events and films have always been an inherent part of the programming mix, especially movies that contribute about 15 per cent to our total revenue and also help to drive in family viewership. However, the real changes that have happened in the movie sphere in the recent past is that the time gap between a movie coming to the theatre and being aired has shortened. So the effect is more. Also, movies have started getting syndicated instead of being exclusively owned. These are the two significant changes that have come into the movie business on television. But from a programming or a brand perspective, offering movies to viewers has consistently been part of our network strategy wherein our channels run movies. This includes our regional channels. So movies have always been a core element of our programming strategy.

From the time you first began ruling the number one slot to now, what kind of shift in audience taste have you witnessed?

Today, the larger group of the Indian audience has got younger. Audiences have moved away from demanding regressive content to content that evokes an open belief system. Meanwhile, the market has also expanded significantly from being metro-focused to being small town focused. Market has moved up both in terms of measurement and penetration. So there are more people and players coming into the category than there were in the past. There has been an enormous growth in the regional sphere as well. All this taken together has led to a significant upgradation in the quality of content, viewership and competition, bringing in a fundamental change in the minds of the consumers.

Was that the primary reason to do away with Balaji's saas-bahu sagas?

It's nothing to do away with. We thought that we needed fresher and younger shows coming in because a show that has run for nine years obviously needs to be refreshed. I don't think in any part of the world a show can continue for so long. The K-series had a good run and did brilliantly for the channel, but then changes were prevalent and we responded to them.

Star Plus, anyway, still continues to source a few shows like Tujh Sang… and Kis Des Mein Hai Mera Dil from Balaji and they are still a part of the producers list who work with us.

It seems whenever audience starts responding to a certain kind of show format, the other players follow suit. So is there any differentiated content actually existing?

Of course there is! Everything has to be differentiated if you want to drive in viewers.
'In Star Plus' revenue mix, the afternoon band contributes 15-20 per cent. We plan to build up on our existing bouquet of shows'

Are social issue-based formats driving the current GEC programming?

Issue-based topics have always been played upon on television as it reflects society and further helps establish connect with the audience with relevant societal discussion points. So, it really does not mean copying content. We are not here to talk about social issues in a fashionable way, but yes everything has to have a concept that connects with the society emotionally and entertains them as well. For example, Bidaaii which is a tale of the dark skinned versus the fair skinned sisters or for that matter Laadli which reflects love for a girl child. It reflects society but is surely weaved into a concept that is contemporary to the society today.

So what kind of changes have you brought in to your programming strategy?

Our shows have always been about hope, optimism and family values with a further support from a high level of romanticism. So there has not as such been any drift in our strategy. Thus, Star Plus will continue to target the women-oriented mass India audience between the age group of 18-35. Family will, of course, remain our secondary audience that will be driven in by reality shows and movies.

What are you doing to beef up your afternoon band?

We are already running three shows in our afternoon band -Tujh Sang Preet Lagayi Sajna, Hamari Devrani and Star Vivah. All of them are performing quite well for the channel, driving in a lot of women audience in the afternoon band. This contributes 15-20 per cent to our total revenue. So, right now we plan to build up on our existing bouquet of shows.

Can you elaborate on your marketing strategy?

Apart from the usual print, radio and television, we are getting aggressive on the digital space. Activating ideas cleverly is another very important segment that we are working upon to create hype and excitement for our various properties. On-ground activation has also become an important part of our marketing mix to create an interactive interaction with consumers that will help in attracting newer eyeballs.

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