They call it invitational pricing but the fact remains that the operative market rates of the free-to-air STAR Utsav, at the moment, are at Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 for 10 seconds. Almost comparable to the effective rates for channels like Sahara and SAB, the question is what does STAR Utsav stand to gain from this.
Quoting market sources, let’s look at the overall picture of ad rates of mass entertainment channels. If an advertiser had to buy 50 per cent prime time and 50 per cent non-prime time, STAR Plus is the pegged highest at an average Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000 and sources indicate that the channel has every spot billed. Sony plays between Rs 18,000 to Rs 20,000. However, the channel offers many bonus slots. Zee operates between Rs 8,000 to Rs 12,000. Both Sahara and SAB are placed in more or less the same slot, moving between Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000. A point worth mentioning here is that these are the rates at which media planners and buyers claim to be buying spots.
Given this, what does the coming in of STAR Utsav mean to Indian television? “The strategy is clear. STAR is the first choice in a media plan and other channels are then taken for frequency. STAR with Utsav wants to corner these numbers as well and that is why rates will be placed in the lower bracket,” said Pradeep Iyengar, Vice President, Carat.
“To begin with, for the share in ad-pies, this is STAR’s way of fighting free-to-air channels,” added Madan Mohan Mohapatra, Media Director, The Mediaedge. Where Iyengar said that even a rating of 2 will meet the channel’s objective, Mohapatra added, “In the initial stages, the channel will get the same if not more numbers than a few other channels right now and going forward that might increase as well. Also since this is an FTA, STAR’s rural penetration will increase. Given such rates, advertisers will look at the channel more positively.”
Iyengar further elucidated that the manner in which STAR packages Utsav will make all the difference. Said he, “If it is packaged with STAR Plus, it will strongly affect competing channels. As a media planner, I need numbers at cost effective rates, then it doesn’t matter where they are coming from.”
However, do these rates mean revenue to STAR? “It definitely does,” said Amol Dighe, Investment Director, Mindshare Fulcrum, “The revenue model for STAR is simple right now. There is no production cost given that the channel showcases complete repeats. Even if other costs like packaging, etc. are taken into consideration, these rates still mean income.”
An opinion that Iyengar seconds, “There is hardly any cost in putting up a channel. As a bouquet, STAR is already paying up-linking cost, so there is barely a problem there. The main investment for a channel today is content and for this channel, STAR would have enough content to run it for the next five years. So, whatever they make out of the channel right now is profits.”
STAR, of course, has a difference of opinion on these rates. Sameer Nair, COO, STAR India, stated, “These are just invitational rates for a few clients. Our card rates very different.”
He explained that the channel already has two clients on board. A point to notice about the channel is that STAR has taken its time to bring Utsav in the market, with a period of only three weeks to sell it. “That’s good enough,” said Nair, adding, “Our distribution is in place. By virtue of being a FTA, the channel will reach more people. Our timings are all part of the strategy around the channel.”
The channel has not been marketed to viewers either. Answering that, Nair said, “You don’t make a noise about anything months in advance. So all the necessary marketing will begin now. We are using multimedia activities. The creatives are very targeted and we are laying emphasis on the smaller towns and cities in our communication. With Utsav, STAR is celebrating and we intend to tell everyone that.”
After four years, STAR has launched a channel in the form of Utsav. With just repeat programming, as per Nair, the channel is offering an alternative to its viewers. With Utsav, STAR is offering an alternative to advertisers as well. And whether this makes a dent on the other channels on Indian television, will be known soon.