Mumbai: In the 18 months post-lockdown, Star TV network has emerged as the top broadcaster with over 30 per cent network share and strong growth across network channels, said Star and Disney India president and head – network entertainment channels Kevin Vaz.
In the Hindi segment – Star Plus and Star Utsav are leaders, and Star Plus has grown to a seven year high, said Vaz while addressing the APOS India summit that began virtually on Tuesday.
While there have been tectonic shifts in the regional markets, Vaz said Star Pravah initially ranked third among the top channels reached the top position, and Star Vijay, which was Star India’s first regional channel competing in one of the toughest markets, became number one in primetime. Markets where Star TV had a stronghold – Malayalam (Asianet) and Telugu (Star Maa) have only grown further.
In conversation with Media Partners Asia co-founder and senior partner Vivek Couto, he also spoke about the recovery of TV advertising business, the future of regional TV, investments in content on TV, resurgence of free-to-air (FTA) and future of mass TV.
“There are several positive macroeconomic factors that are indicating that the economy is bouncing back,” noted Vaz, adding that the IMF has predicted 10 per cent growth in the coming year. “IIP Index reported 11.9 per cent growth in August. GST collections are up by 17 per cent compared to 2019. The last three months have seen GST collections crossing Rs one crore every month. The successful vaccination drive where 1.2 billion Indians have received at least one shot has led to a positive future outlook.”
In terms of depth of advertisers, Vaz observed that the set of advertisers has shifted in the past five years. For instance, five years ago 92 per cent of advertising for the Indian Premier League (IPL) came from categories such as beverages, telecom, handsets and consumer durables. However, now the new age companies such as e-commerce, fintech, gaming and edtech are changing the paradigm.
“These companies have grown their contribution from eight per cent to 40 per cent with the remaining 60 per cent constituted by traditional advertisers. Five years back there were 35 unicorns in the country. This year there are 72 unicorns which are expected to grow to 100 unicorns in the year ahead. These companies have a lot of funds, they want to grow their customer base and advertising on TV is their first point of call,” said Vaz.
Discussing the situation during the lockdown, Vaz said TV broadcasters were caught in a dichotomy as advertisers were pulling back yet with the consumer sitting at home, this was the best chance to create strong partnerships and serve them really good content. “We decided to double down on investments and keep investing in brands keeping the consumer at the focus. We also changed the programming schedule. For example, Star Pravah increased its original programming from two hours to five hours and regional channels such as Star Vijay and Star Maa started serving 45-55 hours of original content every week. The result we see today is that every channel is a leader," he added.
TV has a lot of scope to grow in the country, noted Vaz. There are 300-325 million households out of which TV reaches 210 million. The rural markets added 20 million homes in the last five years, he said. Every week 750 million viewers tune in to watch TV and consume one trillion minutes of content, indicating that TV is the preferred entertainment medium. Vaz said that TV viewers in regional markets consume four hours of TV every day which is 25 per cent higher than the national average. So, growth in HSM markets will come by getting them to stick to TV for a longer period of time.
In terms of content investments, Vaz said that Disney and Star India’s strategy is agnostic to screens. He remarked, “We continue to invest more on TV by launching new channels, opening in new markets. In each market, we intend to have one entertainment, one movie and one music channel to serve wholesome viewing to the consumer.”
He also talked about how the production values on TV have also been scaled up with the launch of big historical dramas and mythological shows. Apart from regular fiction shows, he said finite shows where production values are higher will also be part of TV offering.
Speaking about the resurgence of FTA channels, Vaz said, “We are committed to serving every consumer segment. The FTA market is an incremental opportunity. There are 40 million FTA households. The awareness of pay channels is not high in these markets. Most consumers will begin their TV journey with an FTA channel. The monetisation opportunity is to upsell them. It is important to target this audience as their consumption is disproportionate in the rural markets.”