Tough going, but Star One in it for long haul

MUMBAI: No one thought it would be a cakewalk. And that's how it has panned out for Star One, the newest offering from Hindi entertainment's lead network, three months after making its bow.

The metro-centric channel, which launched on 1 November, has found the going tough thus far to attract the attention of advertisers and the media buying community.

But for Star India COO Sameer Nair, these are but growing pains for an offering whose stated aim is to widen the television audience pie as well as cultivate the new age "glocal" Indian towards appointment-driven television consumption. "We are here to stay and are long term players," is the message Nair has for the nay-sayers.

Star India EVP content and communication Deepak Segal throws it back at the media frat when he says, "The whole concept of Star One evolved from the need expressed by the media for the want of something different."

The media may have spoken on those lines but when it comes to biting the bullet as it were as far as committing advertising on the channel is concerned, they have been more than chary. spoke to media buyers across the spectrum on their take and perception on Star One and what came through was a positioning issue and a ratings issue.

Giving specific reasons for the sparse advertising on Star One, Starcom general manager - investments and new initiatives Manish Porwal says, "On a strategic level, I think the channel has a very a confused positioning. Star One was supposed to get money from the upper end segment that was opening up. Although, the potpouri of programming has not come across as niche and metro-centric as it was supposed to be. I think Star One will need to do a re-thinking on their programming and take an exact positioning on the image that they want to portray."

Porwal also states that the channel has not delivered numbers nor the imagery which has been a key factor for advertisers not entering this terrain.

Coming to the advertisers, media buyers are of the view that advertising on the channel is like getting in to the top end of Star Plus. On condition of anonymity one media buyer states, "Star One offers neither a pull nor the right kind of aggression."

Another oft aired grouse was that rates thrown up were not commensurate with the numbers the channel was delivering. According to industry sources, rates quoted by Star One in the early stages post-launch were at Rs 8000 - 10,000 for a ten second spot, which later was dropped to Rs 5000 - 6000. Thereafter the rates seem to have dropped even further to garner some kind of advertising for the channel.



Mindshare's general manager Hiren Pandit says, "I would say that we are waiting for the channel to stabilise. We are approaching it in a different manner, if numbers are delivered then we are on. Although, I think they have lived up to their positioning, the programming line up is very metrocentric, but the real question being, whether audiences have started moving in.

"They have to find a way to increase the sampling. And on the basis of that they either increase viewership or bring their rates down. Everyone is taking the wait and watch approach," adds Pandit.

Madison Communications' media manager Sudipto Roy, however, seems to have a very different perspective to offer. Roy points out, "Basically, Star Plus has cracked it right and is not giving way. I don't see any other channel getting higher numbers. There is finally a fixed number of viewership which can happen in any given minute. And, the task of increasing the viewership pie is a mammoth one in itself. So, any new player who comes in has to eat into the others' pie."

Analysing the current trends, Roy points out that Star Plus is not giving way, Sony is doing enough to initiate new programming and its old programming is keeping it going and Zee has hit rock bottom. In essence, market shares are going to get increasingly tough to carve out.

Coming to the programming front, Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai, Instant Khichdi and Remix seem to have caught on pretty well. Roy is also of the opinion that the channel needs to be looked at carefully and cannot be written off as it is the only channel that is offering unique content. Having said that, there is still no getting away from the fact that the numbers will remain hard to come by, says Roy.

"As long as Star One can deliver something on a rate which is commensurate, advertising will not be a problem. In terms of investments (from buyers) Star One can definitely compete with Music channels," adds Roy.



So, what is really at the crux of the Star One story?

Segal explains, "It's a bit early to pass judgment as the channel is yet to stabilise. As we realise, there's a huge mass of audience whose wishes are not being fulfilled. taking that into consideration, I think its a commendable performance. We are not looking at Star One delivering Star Plus' ratings, but more focussed ratings. In the coming days even if we go up to a 2 or 3 average TVR, its huge." One show that is doing a lot for the channel in terms of opositive buzz, according to Segal is school campus-based adolescent saga Remix.

Segal sees the channel taking another three to four months to stabilise after which the market will expand. Says Segal, "Actually it doesn't quite matter where Star One is in the total market share, if I get it right in the metros, then I am bang on."

The man at the helm of affairs, Nair, offers, "First of all, when we decided to launch Star One we knew that there was an unduplicated audience. This was a new emerging audience that did not have much of a television appetite, so we decided to programme a channel that would focus on this group."

Nair further adds, "The media buying community are very number driven, so there is always bound to be qualitative and quantitative appreciation."

With regards to numbers, Nair states that the TG tends to be very mobile given that they are between the 15-34 age group, and are not a disciplined TV viewing audience. "We are quite clear on what we are doing and we will look at certain shows which we believe need to be tweaked."

"Coming to advertising, there will be typically the early adopters who will see beyond the number game and others will come along," says Nair.

Talking about the high rates Star One has been asking for, Nair states that they started off with doing long term deals and hence one rate, but now that those are not working out they have converted to short term deals."

In conclusion, while Star One may not have sparked off any great vibes in the market place as yet. The think tank behind the channel are not about to lose the faith anytime soon. Stay the course is what Star One will be doing.

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