Bollywood and its way of life has fascinated audiences since a long time. The channel UTV Stars from the UTV Group has always aimed to bring the glitz and glamour associated with the film industry to the television screens by launching shows that attempt to bring the common man close to the superstar.
In conversation with exchange4media, Nikhil Gandhi, Executive Director, Youth Channels, Media Networks, Disney UTV shares his perspective on UTV Stars being the ‘official channel of Bollywood’, the evolution of the genre and the significance of the digital platform for channels today.
Please elaborate on the positioning of UTV Stars as a pure Bollywood channel. Have there been any changes in viewership trends through the years?
UTV Stars was launched as a pure Bollywood channel. In fact, the channel’s tagline, ‘the official channel of Bollywood’ has been coined considering the qualitative content that we specialise in and the edge that we have over other players in the market by virtue of having the backing of a flourishing movie studio. If one looks at our past and current line-up of shows, the thing that strikes most is the fact that with every show, we’ve always aimed to bring the common man closer to the superstar. We take immense pride in the sort of content that we churn out and thereby call ourselves the intimate insiders of Bollywood. And speaking about specialised content, we are soon launching the second season of one of premier shows, Live My Life. It is a show wherein a die-hard fan gets an opportunity to live the life of his/her favorite superstar for one whole day. Season one received a phenomenal response, which in itself is a testimony to our success in the genre.
As regards the change in viewership trends, reality shows are the present norm. There has been a drastic increase in the number of reality shows over the past few years. The viewer has become more conscious of his tastes, his interests and wants content that is more personal. As a channel, reality shows have comprised our original programming segments and we have ensured that we create formats that audiences can relate to.
Are you happy with the kind of niche that the channel has created for itself and the way that it has grown?
We are extremely happy with the way the channel has grown. The word ‘niche’ would be inappropriate because Bollywood is something that the whole nations thrives on and consumes on a daily basis. Bollywood, as a genre, is therefore more mass than any existing genre. UTV Stars is a ‘wholesome’ Bollywood channel. We have redefined the Bollywood space with our focused content comprising original programming, news formats and music segments. Audiences, now, feel closer to their favourite superstars and have an insider’s perspective on the industry as opposed to that of someone looking at the industry from outside. We are currently leaders in the space.
We were the first brand to have launched Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in India as the Walk of the Stars within less than a year of launch. This, in my opinion, is commendable and establishes us as the pioneers in the industry.
Though we say India is a youth-oriented country, the Hindi general entertainment space has always observed higher TRPs as compared to music/youth entertainment channels. What do you think is the reason for this?
Youth entertainment channels cater to audiences in the age group of 15-24 years. This age group controls the remote at specific time bands, post which the control of the remote is transferred to ‘mother’ i.e. the women in the household. This, in particular, is one reason why GECs have observed higher TRPs. However, having said that, specialty channels have witnessed phenomenal growth over the past few years. And the key is to tap the youth with focused content in the time bands wherein the control of the remote lies in their hands. Niche or specialty channels have successfully done this and the influx in the number of these channels is witness to the fact. UTV Stars targets the youth at other time bands as well with well packaged music segments.
Today with channels focussing a lot on the digital platform, what is the approach that UTV Stars is taking to further extend the digital experience to viewers?
Audiences today want to consume content across platforms. With content available on the go, the audience is not restricted to one device only. Ninety per cent of the ever increasing mobile phone population in India still uses basic mobile phones with key source of entertainment being voice related products and this, we believe, will dominate the entertainment space in the mobile VAS segment. We have launched UTV Stars on mobile. By launching this channel on mobile, users can avail their daily dose of Bollywood masala and their favourite stars at their convenience.
We have just launched the UTV Stars IVR. The UTV Stars IVR gives the user an overall experience of the UTV Stars channel on their personal mobile phones. Users can listen to their favorite shows such as ‘Up Close & Personal with PZ’!, ‘What’s this Friday’, ‘Live my Life’, ‘Superstar Santa’ and more. Users can also listen to the latest Bollywood news and gossip. We are also in the process of launching a UTV Stars application that will be available across Symbian, Java, Android and Blackberry platforms.
In terms of social media also, the channel is the ultimate Bollywood destination on YouTube with numerous views and hits.
What are the plans going forward for the channel?
In terms of the future, I can guarantee that the channel will continue to create outstanding content and strive towards building itself as a 360 degree brand, i.e. a brand beyond TV. We’ve made a mark in the industry with many of our path-breaking initiatives and we will continue doing so even in the future. Our core objective or rather our primary vision is to establish UTV Stars as the ultimate destination for Bollywood on television and beyond.