Mixed Media: Did Star Plus’ complacency make Colors the new GEC star?

Media leaders that take consumers for granted and don’t reinvent themselves are bound to take a beating like Star Plus did last week, writes Pradyuman Maheshwari.

e4m by Pradyuman Maheshwari
Updated: Apr 20, 2009 9:00 AM
Mixed Media: Did Star Plus’ complacency make Colors the new GEC star?

I’m not very sure if Colors will continue to be the GEC #1 when the Week 16 ratings roster gets in place on Tuesday evening, but for me – whether or not it stays on top or drops to #2 – Colors is the numero uno GEC. Star Plus isn’t. In fact, the leader had this coming the week the Viacom 18 offering launched in July last year.

Obviously, the fact that it took Colors a good nine months to sock Star Plus out of its top status speaks volumes for the amount of great work done over the years. It also proves a point that I love to make on the business of media: you may be the big daddy in the trade, but if you aren’t nimble-footed and don’t continually reinvent yourself, you won’t be the leader for too long.

You start with letting lesser or newer players gain traction in areas that may not hurt very much. And if you are slow in staving off competition, what happened to many brands in the past – Zee, Sony, Mid-Day, The Indian Express, etc. – could stare in the face of even the strongest of players. A Zee and Mid-Day are still powerful, but they don’t rule the market as they would some years back. Many other leaders have even faded away from our memories, especially in print (Illustrated Weekly of India and The Sunday Observer, for instance). Or look at the way Arnab Goswami’s Times Now has stolen the thunder from NDTV 24x7 and CNN-IBN. A magazine like India Today wouldn’t have been impacted by Outlook in the latter’s early days had it not got complacent. Some smart thinking by the edit and business teams at Living Media ensured that India Today didn’t fall by the wayside.

Back to Colors dethroning Star Plus. When Star India CEO Uday Shankar spoke to e4m last week, he gracefully acknowledged Colors’ ascent, and said the “big question that needs to be settled is who would own the agenda of entertainment”. He sure hit the nail on the head. For, this is precisely what my regret is about Star Plus. Even though the ‘overtaking’ occurred only last week, Colors has been setting the programming agenda. Star Plus did that until last July, but Colors brought in a refreshing mix.

I also don’t think Star Plus took Colors very seriously in the latter’s preparatory days. Quite unlike what a Times of India did when it saw competition coming in 2005. Despite being a clear leader, TOI overhauled and upgraded its Mumbai edition ahead of the Hindustan Times and DNA launch and also flanked itself with a Mumbai Mirror. But years of being subjected to below par products and some smart subscription lollies got readers to lap up DNA and HT in reasonable numbers. Times still rules, but its bottomlines have been eroded.

It’s not the end of the road for Star Plus. It still has the best of minds at its disposal and the 25-point lag in one showing is not checkmate time yet. Perhaps being the underdog may help it regain the fighter spirit. It’s the age of 20-20 cricket. There’s need to write new rules.

End-note: I know I am going to make a million enemies by writing this. Because while it’s considered okay to critique an Abby or a Filmfare Award or even the Padmas and Oscars, no one ever comments on the Ramnath Goenka Awards for journalism. Since I haven’t tracked all the categories, it would be incorrect for me to comment on the winners, but I was surprised to see Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV in the list as also P Sainath and Karan Thapar getting the top honours for print and television, respectively. I understand these are for 2007-08 and hence, not in recent memory, but surely there were better contenders for excellence in political broadcast journalism than Jain. Also, Sainath, a BD Goenka Award winner for 1999 (BTW, they were set up by the Express founder in 1979 in memory of his late son), and Karan Thapar ought to have been not Journalists of the Year for 2007-08, but for their super work over the years. Comments anyone?

(The views expressed here are my own. Email mixedmedia@exchange4media.com if you agree/disagree with what’s written.)

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