afaqs!

Anupam Vasudev: STAR spells more than just a Hindi GEC

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | September 09, 2009
STAR Plus, too, is putting its bet on highly differentiated content and soon, it will launch two new properties, Perfect Bride and a travelogue reality show, Yatra

STAR Plus is abuzz with new launches. The latest show to join the fray is another reality show, Perfect Bride, which will go on air on September 12. It is also learnt that the channel is preparing to mount another big budget reality show, titled Yatra.

The offerings come close on the heels of recent launches including a chat show, Tere Mere Beech Mein and a fiction, titled Sajan Ghar Jana Hai. In a conversation with afaqs!, Anupam Vasudev, executive vice-president, marketing and communication, STAR India, shares STAR Plus' strategy of winning over viewers with new, innovative and experimental content.

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Vasudev says that today, the viewer is spoilt for choice and exhibits a strong desire for differentiated and new content. The increased competition in the general entertainment channel (GEC) space makes it imperative for stakeholders to make fast moves for greater and far more interesting innovations in content as well as marketing initiatives.

This is visible in the choice of reality shows across channels. People are ready to take risks, raising the performance bar. In the past, there were very few reality shows and those, too, represented more or less similar formats along the lines of Indian Idol. Now, the envelope has been pushed further and the channels are on a look out for more varying formats not only from the US but also from places such as Turkey.

Indigenous projects are also being taken up, including STAR Vivaah and Aap Ki Kachehri on STAR Plus. Stakeholders now are far more innovative and experimental with shows. Unlike in the past, there exists a greater opportunity for players to make a move for the top slot at different points of time.

In relation to programming and choice, the viewer has become less tolerant of average content. With shows no longer registering double digit TVRs in the absence of popular long running serials such as Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, how have parameters of assessing the success rate of a show changed?

Vasudev explains, "A particular show not delivering in a given period of time is akin to any other consumer product failing to make a mark in the market. If a show is a non-performer in the first three months, it's highly unlikely that it will turn out to be a performer for the channel. This observation is not peculiar to the entertainment industry alone - it holds true for any other market as well."

He further adds that one can certainly make out, depending on ratings and the time band, whether a show has the potential to add value to the channel. In the afternoon slot, a TVR of 1.5 is considered satisfactory, but for the primetime, a show has to deliver at least a minimum TVR of 2.5 to justify its presence.

Again, the success and failure of a property differs from platform to platform, in line with the strength of the channel being considered. STAR Plus will have a higher threshold of success in comparison to, say, STAR One.

Of late, the GEC space is witnessing lot of strategic marketing initiatives in the form of extended one hour special episodes of a driver show or complete blackout of advertisements in a select few time bands.

Where does STAR Plus stand on this and how far do such tactics help a channel in stacking up those much required numbers to lay claim to the No.1 position?

"If innovations are well thought through, then they can prove to be effective legitimate marketing tools for driving viewership for a channel by ensuring sampling. For some time, we, too, ran one-hour episodes of our driver show, Bidaai. It was a strategic call to warm up the 9:30 pm slot for another new show, Yeh Ristha Kya Kehlata Hai. Similarly, during the IPL (Indian Premier League) season, to build traffic around weekends, the channel decided to run movies without ad-breaks," says Vasudev.

However, in the same breath, he accepts that if someone was indulging in such tactics just to buy time with competition, such a strategy could not be sustained in the long term.

According to Vasudev, another trend to be watched in the television industry relates to the bottom-up growth, as is the case with any other industry. This explains the emergence of serials set in a rural backdrop. More lower-end income group viewers will enter the C&S (cable and satellite) space in times to come, thereby influencing the choice of subjects on the small screen.

Despite increasing competition and fragmentation in the media space, Vasudev says that the advantages enjoyed by STAR India include a strong network presence, where learnings across platforms can be used to address concerns of consumers and advertisers. Other advantages, Vasudev adds, are "a strong presence in the regional space with Asianet and STAR Jalsha. Being part of a global company, it has the advantage of global learnings and financial strength. Also, it has a strong brand heritage and success history to fall back on."

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