Even as the One Alliance announced an upward revision of Rs 55 in subscription rates, and a strong buzz about ZEE-Turner Ltd. hiking its bouquet price from the current Rs 42 to Rs 60, comes the news that STAR India has reduced its subscription rate from the current Rs 40.50 to Rs 30, effective January 1, 2003. With this announcement, STAR has opted to move away from the industry trend of hiking subscription rates, thereby addressing the main grouse of most cable operators, namely frequent price hikes.
STAR had revised its rates in January this year, increasing it from Rs 30 to Rs 40.50 - a cool Rs 10.50 more. Thus with the latest turn of events, STAR's bouquet price stands at what it was last year, which analysts believe is a coup of sorts in an industry plagued with perennial broadcaster-cable operator problems of under-declaration and over-pricing.
Says a senior media analyst based in Mumbai, "STAR is actually ensuring that more cable operators reveal their subscriber base, which is what any broadcaster would want at the end of the day." Highlights a spokesperson for STAR India, " Our aim is to ensure greater transparency in subscriber declaration. By reducing our bouquet price, we are providing an incentive to cable operators for a higher declaration of their subscriber base."
Currently STAR's subscriber base stands at 6.5 million, which the network claims is a lot higher considering that its bouquet including leader STAR Plus is the most watched across the country. Average declaration, claims the spokesperson, is in the region of 15 to 20 per cent, which the company hopes will see an upswing in the near future. Apart from the existing crop of seven channels including STAR Movies, STAR Plus, STAR Gold, STAR News, STAR World, CHannel [V] and National Geographic Channel (NGC), also included in the bouquet is the newly launched Adventure 1 from NGC.
Despite its obvious implications, a couple of media analysts are of the opinion that STAR's move of a price reduction as opposed to a price hike is a clever strategy of undermining competition in the lead-up to the World Cup. Concurs a senior media planner with a Top 10 agency, "With the greatest cricketing event under its belt, the Sony-Discovery bouquet will expect the channel MAX to be in greater demand, implying a natural increase in subscriber base. So, by reducing its bouquet price, STAR is trying to ensure that it is the preferred network, regardless of the fact that it lacks a premium event to hook viewers for the next few months."
Meanwhile, the ZEE-Turner has inked a deal with Zone Broadcasting Ltd to distribute its reality TV-based channel of the same name. In the pipeline is Turner's English movie channel for the Asia-Pacific region, which according to industry observers, could be a reworked-relaunched Cinemax with a new name altogether. What is clear though is that the new English movie channel will replace HBO in the ZEE-Turner bouquet. © 2002 agencyfaqs!