Shweta Mulki

Brand Owners' Summit: "Indians watch 20 hours of television a week, second only to sleeping": Gayatri Yadav, Star Network

According to Yadav, it's critical to disrupt and not just differentiate in media, as the consumer, at the point of consumption, has infinite choices.

At the afaqs! Brand Owners' Summit held in Mumbai on December 9, Gayatri Yadav, head, marketing and communications, Star TV Network India, took the audience through the network's over two-decade journey in the country.

Brand Owners' Summit: "Indians watch 20 hours of television a week, second only to sleeping": Gayatri Yadav, Star Network
Yadav initiated the discussion with a talk on the principles of brand building, and its application to both products and people. Citing a model written by Saatchi and Saatchi's Kevin Roberts, which suggests that brand building is about inspiring love and respect, she said, "Very often we know people who get only one of those, but not both."

Charting 'love' and 'respect' on an X-Y axis graph, Yadav explained, "Commodities that usually don't have much differentiation are 'low on love- low on respect'. Ranking 'high on love- low on respect' are for instance, restaurants, fashion brands and fads, that don't stand the test of time, and 95 per cent of products fall into the 'high on respect-low on love' slot. You understand such products, but do not deeply love, such as necessities or trademarks. High love-high respect lies where a brand or a 'lovemark' resides. If you think of yourself in that category, you have to think of building a strong core which earns respect, as well as build a brand personality one can love. Just 2-5 per cent of products out there fall in that slot, and the 'lovemarks' of today were also the 'lovemarks' of 20 years ago."

She added that Star has been the 'nation's storyteller' for over 20 years. "When I joined Star, I was blown by the unique challenge in content marketing. I had learnt that differentiation was the first mantra for brands, but here, that was not enough, you had to disrupt too."

Yadav said that in media, it's critical to disrupt and not just differentiate, and the unique predicament here is that the consumer, at the point of consumption, has infinite choices with no switching cost. "Therefore, media is often termed as a business of big hits," she said.

Talking about dealing with an immensely diverse audience, Yadav said it was important to find that unifier or a clear lens and a point of view. "The filter for the brand then becomes about whether your content lives up to that point of view," she said.

Yadav also talked about television's social impact, and referred to the longitudinal study by the University of Chicago, that covered towns and cities across India for two years. The report suggested that within six months of the advent of cable television, some fundamental social changes had taken place such as higher autonomy and more decision-making power for women and an increase in enrolment of girls in schools. Yadav later took the audience through the plethora of positive reactions to actor Aamir Khan's show Satyamev Jayate, to give a sense of its social impact, conveying the influence of television on society.

Yadav also added that it was important to aspire to be a market leader and yet be progressive enough to drive social change. She said, "At Star, CSR doesn't just stand for corporate social responsibility, but also creative social responsibility."

Responding to the accusations of running 'sequences' that could suggest regressive attitudes, Yadav explained that those are out of context, and the larger story track looks at the bigger picture, and the overall journey of the character.

Speaking about the width and depth of Star's viewer engagement, Yadav said, "Indians watch 20 hours of television a week, second only to sleeping. We reach about 65 crore people every month, and they spend about 45 minutes to an hour, every day with us. With 20,000 hours of content -- that's 20 times more than Bollywood and seven times more than the US TV industry, this is all about potential and possibility."

Yadav also took the audience through India's entertainment and cultural journey starting from the 90s -- from the opening up of its markets, the phase when Star made a big bang entry into Indian television sets, to Star's influence on broadcast news in the early era. She said that the 'age of renewal' saw the economic boom, and that was when it was decided to go local. She added that this era included the launch of KBC and the 'K serials'. The next era of Star saw a rewriting of the script, launching a sister competitive channel, going big on sports, and encouraging kabaddi and football, which resulted in a 24 per cent market share.

According to Yadav, as a 'storyteller', Star needs to look at every avenue, since it's a multi-screen world today. "We find that more screens have increased overall consumption for us, so it's not a zero-sum game," said Yadav. She added that for mass broadcasters, content tends to be communal-family driven, and the personalisation of the mobile screen brought about the 'go solo' proposition with Hotstar, which has already reportedly crossed 35 million downloads since its February launch.

The ninth edition of the afaqs! Brand Owners' Summit in Mumbai was powered by Amagi, with Wall Street as the outdoor partner, Kairali as the wellness partner, Furlenco as the furniture rental partner, and GainBuzz as its reach partner.

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