Alokananda Chakraborty

STAR's free-to-air channel to be launched on June 7

STAR Utsav will air reruns of popular STAR Plus shows, and is targeted at viewers and advertisers who have missed the opportunity to get onto the mainline channel

A new, free-to-air general entertainment channel is set to go on air on June 7, 2004. Branded STAR Utsav, the channel is being launched by STAR India, and will draw on the STAR Plus library of programmes for its content. STAR Utsav will essentially carry reruns of popular STAR Plus shows, and according to Kevin Vaz, senior vice-president, ad sales, STAR India, its objective is to reach out to those households that do not have the benefit of a pay channel service, and hence, cannot avail STAR Plus' programming. "STAR Utsav will provide the best of STAR Plus content," he says. "Both channels will complement one another, and the presence of STAR Utsav will strengthen the bouquet, apart from aiding in category growth."

Predictably, the entry cost, as in the ad rates of Utsav, are lower than that of STAR Plus, and according to Vaz, the idea is to help advertisers leverage brand association and connect with properties such as Kyunki… and Kahaani…, which are otherwise beyond the reach of advertisers with moderate budgets. Scheduling and packaging are the key elements of the new channel, he says, and if media analysts are to be believed, these attributes will be crucial to its success. For one, the channel will operate in the same space as big sister STAR Plus, and the agenda quite clearly is to avoid cannibalization of viewership. Industry sources point out that the reruns of popular, late-night soaps have been slotted for early evening prime time on Utsav, while interactive game shows will dominate mid-to-late prime time.

The overall target of Utsav is to be available in 48 million C&S homes, say industry sources, and interestingly, these households could be a mix of those with and without pay channels. "Viewership for Utsav will come from those households that have not viewed STAR Plus at all (that is, ones with no pay channel service), and those who would like to revisit their favourite shows," says Suresh Naik, general manager, media planning, Triton Communications. "From an advertiser point of view, it can absorb those advertisers who cannot get into a STAR Plus."

A similar model of segmentation, incidentally, was adopted by the SUN Network in the south. While the mainline Sun TV - with its premium channel pricing - was targeted at advertisers with bigger budgets, channels such as KTV were positioned to appeal to advertisers lower down the rung. According to Sundeep Nagpal, managing director, Stratagem Media, STAR India's latest exercise is aimed at capitalizing on the free-to-air market. "There is the pay market and the free-to-air market, and if DTH works out, there will be a DTH market as well," he explains. "A big media house will want to make its presence felt in all these areas, hence the need to have alternative modes of transmission. STAR's DTH project is yet to kick off, so Utsav could well be a competitive move to create another battlefield." © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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