In conversation with exchange4media, Kevin Vaz, Business Head, English Cluster, Star Jalsha and Jalsha Movies at STAR India stressed on the need for channels in the English Entertainment genre to evolve and showcase fresh content as well as establishing a connect with the right set of audiences. Excerpts:
Where do you see the English Entertainment genre headed and what can be done to increase its scope?
Digitisation has really helped the English genre. Earlier, most of the English genre channels were stuck because of low bandwidth, thus, whenever a new channel was coming up, the English genre channel used to haze far off and suffered from poor picture clarity as it was put in a different bandwidth, due to which the viewer would lose interest. This has stopped.
I also feel that over the years English genre channels have got specialised and have learnt to position themselves. So, a channel like Star World reaches out to the entire family with its soaps and shows targeting both male and female audiences, while FX channel is for audiences that are more edgy, and therefore, the content appeals more to males. A lot more channels will come in the future and target the audience in a very special way. The growth of the genre will depend on how the channels would be able to correlate with the audience in terms of story correlation and getting more recent programming. Recent show screening would be the key factor here.
How do you define your target group?
We are looking at premium audiences in the country, and it does not matter where they are coming from. I would not like to confine myself only to the audiences in the metros. The content can cut across demographics, and the people acknowledge that.
One of your competitors had mentioned that the scope of innovation in the English genre is very limited. Do you agree?
Yes, it is limited because one does not make the content himself. But we try to do a mix of what we can produce in India, so you see the biggest talk shows coming from us, such as ‘Coffee with Karan’ (we are launching its new season soon), ‘Front Row’ or the ‘Simi Garewal Show’. We do a few Hindi productions, which are primarily based in the talk show space. We do a lot of international and first runs. Therefore, our content is very fresh.
How would you define FX as a channel?
FX’s content is much more edgy, for example, shows such as ‘Prison Break’ and ‘X-Files’. It has got most of the dramas. Some shows such as ‘Simpsons’ may not be understood by everyone. It is a little more evolved content, and therefore, would strike a chord with an evolved audience. So, our core TG would be a little higher end and skewed towards males. Till now Star World was the main driver for English entertainment and now, we are creating a second brand. FX has consistently been number one and two in the last six months, second only to Star World. We are coming up with new shows, which are big shows abroad, such as ‘The Killing’, ‘The West Wing’, ‘X-Files’ and so on, while other premium shows such as ‘Sons of Anarchy’ are likely to continue. This would take us to the next level. We would like the channel to be share the position with Star World so that we have a good mix of broad audiences watching our shows.
How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
We are the only channel which is actually targeting such audiences. Even a channel like Fox Crime is targeted towards people who are looking at procedurals and analysis of crime. Each of these channels has got a clear cut appeal for the audiences.
Post digitisation, has there been an increase in your viewership in the HSM markets?
We target cities with 1 million plus population and not just the metros. People in smaller towns are highly aspirational. They want to watch English shows, hence, we see a big growth coming from this section and not just the top metros.
At the end of the day, do you cater to the audience’s desires or aspirations?
I think it is a mix of both. There will be some shows which are completely aspirational and would not connect with the masses. So, there will be difference in the comedy sense of ‘Simpson’ and ‘Two and a Half Men’. One needs different platforms to reach out to different audiences. If one looks at ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, it reaches out to housewives, but shows such as ‘Prison Break’ or ‘Sons of Anarchy’ are more edgy.
With the 10+2 ad restriction set to be implemented in October, do you see a substantial increase in ad rates?
Demand is likely to go up during the festive season. There are sectors such as automobile and consumer durables, which see their highest sales during this season. So, demand and supply will decide the ad rates; as of now, we cannot decide.
Has there been an increase in your ad revenues?
Yes, we have seen an increase in ad revenues. But it is not about just increasing the ad rates, rather creating the right demand, which will be our future approach. STAR’s English channels reach out to nine million households, which is far more than the reach of the largest newspaper. With that ratio, the STAR English cluster becomes far more cost effective.