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Star India's FTA Hindi channel Utsav launching 7 June

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MUMBAI: Star Plus' "flanker" channel sibling is finally ready to make its bow and it's not named Classic. Come 7 June and the Hindi entertainment space will see the entry of Star Utsav (meaning celebration), a free-to-air channel made up of reruns of the popular shows that Star Plus has generated over the last four years.

The entire Hindi speaking cable & satellite universe is what Star India COO Sameer Nair expects to reach through Star Utsav, especially the smaller cities and towns where Star Plus is not widely available. We are going in to the market and seeding 5,000 receivers, says Nair, while adding that there are some major distribution/trade related activities being organised around the channel's launch. There will be a lot of advertising on cable channels as well as trade related magazines as an adjunct to this effort, Nair says.

From an advertising point of view, Utsav offers Star the opportunity to tap into the local advertising space that opened up after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in February allowed foreign broadcasters to garner ads from the local non-exporting advertiser. Nair says the rates on Utsav will be extremely competitive, and will offer the smaller players a "quality channel" to advertise on.

 

According to Star India marketing and channel communications head Ajay Vidyasagar, Utsav, when packaged with the network's Hindi movie channel Star Gold, "can combat the rest of the Hindi entertainment channels as far as advertising is concerned."

Clearly the plan is that while Star Plus retains its numero uno position in the ad stakes, Utsav will work from the flanks eating into the ad pies that the likes of No 2 channel Sony Entertainment and the No 3 Zee TV have carved out for themselves.

PROGRAMME SCHEDULING ENSURES NO CLASH WITH STAR PLUS

Elaborating on the programming strategy behind Star Utsav, Nair says the scheduling had been done in such a manner that Utsav will function as an alternative channel that complements Star Plus.

One issue that Nair's team had to keep in mind while working out programming scheduling was that the top three shows on Star Plus --- Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kasauti Zindagi Kay --- be protected from any possibility of erosion in their viewership. And Utsav's FPC has been organised keeping that thought in mind. Which is why KSBKBT, which will be Utsav's driver programme in the launch phase, has been slotted at 7 pm Mondays through to Thursdays.

Another point that needs noting is that Star is spacing out its "big gun" programmes and will not be launching them all in a bunch. That is why in the FPC made available to indiantelevision.com there is no KGGK or KZK among the shows in the list. Instead, lining up alongside KSBKBT is Saans, one of Star's critically acclaimed shows that had its run during the period that Star Plus was an also ran channel.

One aspect about Utsav that gives Nair a big kick is the fact that with a ready bank of programming available, it offers him and his team much leeway on the scheduling front.

And what of the show that started Star on the road to pre-eminence --- Kaun Banega Crorepati? That will most likely be Utsav's Diwali offering, says Nair.

Now that Star's FTA channel is ready to roll, the industry will be awaiting the next channel that is expected to come from India's lead broadcaster's brains trust in the coming months --- Plus II. Of course, there might well be a name change when it does finally launch.

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