One of the high priority items on STAR India’s agenda for some time has been to expand its presence across India and get a slice of the regional pie as well. STAR Jalsha for the Bengal market and STAR Pravah for Maharashtra were steps in that direction. The big one was the formation of a joint venture with Jupiter that has brands like Asianet, Suvarna and Sitara in the South markets, giving STAR India its presence in these regional markets without having to fight the clutter in these markets and set up channels from scratch.
Now, taking stock of these moves of last year, STAR India’s COO, Sanjay Gupta, explained that these “logical steps” were paying dividends. In an exclusive conversation with exchange4media, Gupta speaks on the thought process behind these steps and the key areas of focus for the group going forward. “The eyeballs have come in, the revenues have to now follow,” he said.
Success in Bengal and Kerala; growth in Maharashtra and Karnataka; fight in the rest,
Gupta explained that for STAR India, eyeing the regional market was the logical thing to do, given the number of consumers in markets like Bengal and Maharashtra, or in the South. He added, “Localisation and globalisation is the way of growth for any industry, especially the entertainment. There are large audiences in regional markets who prefer to consume content in their local languages if they had good quality content. That is the opportunity we tapped on, and we are happy with the progress we have made.”
He further elaborated, “We are the No. 1 player in Bengal now and in Kerala. We are a strong No. 2 in Maharashtra and Karnataka. STAR Vijay has been in place for years now. The progress in some markets is staggering, and we are working in the others.”
Citing the example of the Bengal market, he explained that with a weekly access to 10 million consumers in Bengal, by June 2009, STAR Jalsha had become a very strong player in the market. He also admitted that this success did not let the STAR Pravah graph look too good. He said, “STAR Pravah is just about nine months old, and we are already a strong No. 2 player in a very competitive market. If you had to see individually, the performance in Maharashtra is very good. The only reason why Pravah may not look very successful to some is when it is compared to Bengal, because Bengal has been a staggering success.”
Asianet and Asianet Plus lead as the No. 1 and No. 2 channels in Kerala, respectively, giving it a dominant position in that market with almost 1000 GRPS accruing on a weekly basis. Suvarna is No. 2 in Karnataka. “We have focussed in these markets and we are seeing very good results there,” Gupta added.
Eyeballs in, chase the Revenues
The broad approach for STAR India in the regional market has been to establish local teams to “ensure good consumer sense”. According to Gupta, “The nature of this business requires you to know the consumer there well, and at a very strategic level, the investments in the regional business have been done keeping that mind. The second important thing was to focus on content quality – right from the kind of content to its look and feel, and production quality. The kind of producers and directors that we work with is in line with that.”
The final aspect of this approach is to “innovate” across different kinds of content in a significant way. For Gupta, this three-pronged approach was to get, and in some cases keep, STAR regional channels “ahead of competition”.
He also explained that in the regional markets, regional properties overall attracted large amount of revenues, which came mainly from the money spent by local clients. These monies are divided between various mediums, but being the lowest CPT (cost per thousand) medium, television has its advantages here.
He informed that even as the regional channels had eaten into the viewership of channels such as STAR Plus, they had not cannibalised ad revenues. He added, “The opportunity lies in the quality and size of the product and revenues follow eyeballs. STAR India today reaches over 130 million people every week as a network, and of this, regional contribution is significant. For instance, 10 million comes in from the Bengali market itself. The focus now is to ensure that the revenues from these markets grow.”
For now, STAR has no plans to foray into any other regional market. “This is perhaps the only industry, where the consumers’ ability to shift brands is just by pushing a button on the remote. Our energies are channelled now to really grow the businesses quite significantly in the next few months,” Gupta concluded.