Switch on the tube and pick up the remote, and invariably your fingers glide effortlessly to one overused button on the gadget. Yes, that little button is a window to your number one choice among Hindi general entertainment channels - STAR Plus. Like it or not, but TVR figures say this behaviour is pretty common among television viewers today.
If this viewer habit highlights the overwhelming domination of the channel in people's minds, what is even more interesting is the perception that is gaining ground in media circles these days. Put any content on STAR Plus - be it a Balaji-produced soap or a musical gameshow, a film or a programme for kids - the chances of it succeeding on the channel are significantly higher as compared to Sony or Zee.
The TVR figures for programmes across channels and an analysis of the success rate of new programmes launched in recent times seem to reinforce this notion. Check this out. For the last week of August (August 25-31), the Top 100 list as compiled by Tam Media Research features 59 programmes of STAR to Sony's 11, Sun TV's 28 and ESPN's 2. In the preceding week, the Top 100 list had 48 programmes of STAR to Sony's 9, Sun TV's 26, Gemini TV's 15 and ESPN's 2. The trend was no different the week before. STAR had 47, Sony 9, Zee 3, Sun TV 22, Gemini TV 18 and Star Sports 1.
So what gets the channel going? Is it content or critical mass?
Explains Vikram Sakhuja, managing director, MindShare Fulcrum, who was formerly with STAR, "STAR TV's domination is a virtue of the circle they are into. It began with Kaun Banega Crorepati two years ago on the back of which they pushed viewers on to other slots, namely Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki at 10.00 pm and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi at 10.30 pm. Not resting on their laurels, they got audiences to sample their 8.00 pm and 8.30 pm slots. On the back of that, they pushed the 11.00 pm slot through Kahin Kissi Roz. Then they moved on to the afternoon slots, which had repeats of programmes telecast the previous evening. Realising that audiences, especially those who'd missed the original telecast, were sampling these prorgammes during this slot, STAR slowly but steadily built critical mass around it. Now they have branded it as STAR Dopahar and have introduced some new programmes in that time band."
If STAR's 'migratory' strategy seems obvious at one level, the channel has been working overtime to change perceptions at a more subliminal level as well, a case in point being the on-air promos, voiceovers and fillers on STAR Plus, which contribute in a big way to creating the STAR brand of programmes. Says Punitha Arumugam, COO, Madison Media (west), "People are loyal to programmes and not channels. However, when viewers get consistently good programming on a particular channel, it creates channel loyalty by default." Agrees Sakhuja, "Their on-air promos are very clever - be it episodic or generic promos, menus, line-ups, day- and time-straps, movie packaging or stylising. This, coupled with a consistency in execution, assures a critical mass."
Some other notable examples of keeping ahead of the pack is the channel's 'no breaks' strategy between two programmes during primetime hours, ensuring that 'eyeballs' don't rove to other channels.
Yet, there are chinks in its armour, which rivals are trying best to capitalise on. The most obvious is the fact that the channel has not made much effort to cash in on big events to widen its repertoire. As Ashish Bhasin, president, Initiative Media, points out, "Unfortunately, programming today is viewed in terms of soaps and serials. They could be the main draw but they are not all. You have cricket and films for instance, which also constitute a major chunk of programming. And STAR Plus definitely doesn't have cricket to offer."
Reiterates a senior planner based in Mumbai, "If you put good content and market it well, I don't see why it won't click with the audience, irrespective of the channel. The Hindi movie Gadar, for example, clocked a higher TVR of 5.05 (the movie was telecast on August 14, 2002, on Zee TV) than STAR Plus' Dil Chahta Hai, which notched up a figure of 4.65 (it was aired on August 17, 2002)." Again, the recent Natwest series testified to the popularity of cricket among television audiences. The Natwest Series final between India and England on July 13, 2002, registered a record TVR of 19.31 among four-years-plus audiences in cable and satellite homes.
Despite the underlying trends, STAR Plus - at least for now - is firmly ensconced at the No 1 position. Says Tarun Katial, senior vice-president, programming, STAR Plus, "It all begins with us deciding to do a show. We work very closely with the producer at every stage ensuring that the final product connects with the viewers. Right from commissioning the programme to thrashing out the storyline, characterisation, episodic drama, execution and marketing, we constantly bear in mind what the viewer wants." © 2002 agencyfaqs!