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New wine, new bottle
Can Star One's new avatar win the fragmented GEC market?

Ajita Shashidhar

Star One is dead, but Life’s OK. Star India gave its seven-year-old general entertainment channel Star One a quiet burial last fortnight and brought in its replacement in a high-decibel campaign. “Instead of trying to revive Star One, we experimented with another mass channel and created competition for Star Plus,” says Star India CEO Uday Shankar.

Star India is at pains to show that Life OK is not a resurrected Star One, even if it dons the mantle of flanking channel to the flagship Star Plus. For starters, it doesn’t bear the Star tag. Then, it will have seven days of serials, rather than just on weekdays. Life OK also has a ‘brand philosopher’ in Madhuri Dixit. And, perhaps most significantly, the channel will have three shows in an hour, rather than two, giving it shorter ad breaks.

All of which should please viewers. But is it enough to increase the channel’s viewership ratings and garner more advertising in the highly fragmented general entertainment channels segment? Star is non-committal on how content will be differentiated in this channel compared with Star Plus. But experts know the strategy. “Star India is trying to get more mass appeal by penetrating into tier one and tier two towns. These markets also consume Star Plus, so doing away with the Star branding may help the channel create a new identity of its own,” says Atul Phadnis, CEO of TV guidance channel, What’s On India.

And since shorter commercial breaks mean fewer slots for advertisers, it will be a challenge for Life OK to better its ad revenues. A 10-second ad on Star Plus costs ₹2-2.5 lakh, while one on Star One toward the end earned just ₹4,000-5,000. There’s no rate card for the new channel and Star is selling inventory only for its reality show, Sach ka Saamna, at ₹1.2 lakh for a prime time 10-second spot. “Star’s strategy is to first garner ratings so that it has greater bargaining power with advertisers,” says Punitha Arumugham, CEO, Madison Media. The initial ratings of Life OK have been respectable (87).

Creating a flanking channel makes sense since it helps increase market share for the company. But in reality most broadcasters have failed in leveraging their secondary channels. Star itself hasn’t been particularly lucky: both Star One and Star Utsav, which airs Star Plus re-runs, have been non-starters. Arch rival Zee’s offering of Zee Next, too, failed. Ashutosh, media consultant and former COO of Big Broadcast, says distinct positioning is critical. Consider SAB TV. As a regular GEC, it didn’t work for Multi Screen Media at all. “But when it was repositioned as a humour channel, viewership began to soar.” If Star can manage that, Life really will be OK. 

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