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STAR News to launch 'Anchor Hunt -2' soon

By Anindita Sarkar , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | February 08, 2011
STAR News is ready to roll out the second season of its news reality property, Star Anchor Hunt, in the next 30 days.

STAR News is all geared up to roll the second season of its news reality property, STAR Anchor Hunt, in the next 30 days.
The property looks at symbiotically marrying consumer needs to the DNA of the channel (anchoring and reporting), and aims to build strong brand equity, as well as create a buzz among the youth and aspiring audiences. It primarily targets 10 cities nationwide, which include the metros and the mini-metros.

According to Neeraj Sanan, vice-president - marketing and distribution, MCCS, the primary objective of the property is to create a brand buzz, along with selecting the right set of anchors for STAR News through brand activation.

"The secondary need, of course, is to earn revenue. In its first season, while Anchor Hunt did earn revenues, it did not make any profit. This year, however, we plan to break even," he tells afaqs!

STAR News plans to tap a minimum of six sponsorship partners for the property's new season.

So will Anchor Hunt in its second season be able to ride the buzz?

Many media observers believe that the initiative is a good proposition since it is a merger between the human resource of a company and the concept of reality.

According to independent brand consultant Cajetan Vaz, since the show is aspirational, advertisers such as Fair & Lovely or Pond's Dreamflower will find an instant brand fit, leading towards the monetization of the property. "And, quite like KBC on Sony, it could eventually create an impactful buzz among the small town audiences, especially the young adults," says Vaz.

As far as viewership is concerned, the impact of the reality content could remain a little blurry. This is because although the show could bring in the initial traffic for the channel as it would appeal to the young population, the long-term equity of the STAR News brand will only depend on its content.

Says Sharda Agarwal, director, MarketGate Consulting, "While the reality property will surely build brand awareness and draw viewership from the youth segment which is more attracted towards a GEC or a music channel, the brand stickiness will only come through good content."
Adds Vaz, "The viewership might come in only from the participants and their families. So, the impact remains blurry."

Tracing the past

STAR News claims that in its last season, Anchor Hunt helped build the channel equity in an otherwise commoditised segment. Says Sanan, "We were able to successfully drive home the point that it is not easy to be a STAR anchor. We were also able to showcase the channel's sincerity in ensuring that only the best participant wins, without any caste or domicile influences. There was no viewer SMSes to influence the outcome."

So, what were the challenges faced?

According to Sanan, the first challenge was to shake off the common perception amongst viewers that it is not like the normal song-and-dance reality shows one normally sees on general entertainment channels.

"In most of the reality shows in India (most of them influenced by similar shows abroad), the focus is more on generating entertainment content for the audience. One's not sure what the show does to the participants, or even the winners. STAR Anchor Hunt is the first show of its kind in the world, and we are happy to state that the winners are now anchors on the channel," says Sanan.

The second challenge was to hold auditions in cities like Patna and Allahabad as it was extremely hot. The third challenge was to maintain a balance between entertainment and serious content. "And, we believe that we managed that. The average market share for the show was 17 per cent," Sanan says.

There were instances when viewers did not clearly understand the fine nuances of newsgathering and news reporting. "We will try to make the show more viewer friendly in its second season," says Sanan.

Innovation

Contrary to common perception, news reporting is not all that glamorous. Lot of hard work and sweat is involved in bringing alive the news before viewers. Therefore, the channel plans to show more of the actual newsroom stress, in an attempt to convey this fact.

The entire communication is built around the central theme, 'Are you ready to face the challenge?' The communication strategy aims to break the myth that anybody can become a news anchor.

"We have launched commercials inviting registrations, which show how tough it is to be an anchor. Some commercials show how difficult it is to clear a battery of tests and become a STAR anchor," Sanan explains.

The channel would broadly follow the same strategy as last year. In addition, the promos will also showcase the success story of the two winners.

The show will be promoted through television, which will be the lead medium, along with both national and regional newspapers, and the radio in select towns. For below-the-line communication, it's going to be outdoors. Contact programmes are also on at colleges and media institutes to invite participation.

Sanan elaborates, "We actively promote this initiative on the digital platform as well. Besides advertising on select websites, we also look at job portals and social networking sites to encourage participation. Fifty per cent of the registrations came from digital promotion alone."

In its first year in 2010, approximately 25,000 people had applied, and after a search across ten cities spanning around 60 days of on-ground screening, 20 were selected for the next round. In Noida, these 20 participants were first groomed, and then put through a battery of tests for the selection of six finalists. During this, the finalists interacted with leading personalities from the field of news, entertainment, sports and politics. They were given practical training on how to be a good anchor, how to present news and how to groom themselves. In the grand finale, the six finalists had to interview Lalu Prasad Yadav, a seasoned politician. Two STAR anchors were finally selected.

For the record, the number of channels in the Hindi news segment is around 15, reaching out to approximately 60 million households, and is sized at around Rs 1,500 crore.

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