'There is room for more channels as long as you have a clear positioning and offering’

Q&A with Kevin Vaz, head, English business, Star India, on Star World Premiere, which launches 24 September

'There is room for more channels as long as you have a clear positioning and offering’

Star India is all set to launch another English entertainment channel, Star World Premiere, on 24 September. The HD channel will telecast popular American shows in India almost simultaneously with their broadcast in America.

Campaign India caught up with Kevin Vaz, head, English business, Star India, to find out the thinking behind the launch, the differentiation, content Premiere will air, revenue model and growth of the genre in India.

What is the objective of one more English general entertainment channel? How will the new channel be positioned? Who will it address (TG)?

We are addressing a highly premium audience - the top 1 per cent of the population of this country belonging to the age group of 25 to 34 years. I would define the person as someone who is a ‘global Indian’ and been exposed to different parts of the world; who is aware of when the shows are being aired in the US. We saw that there are certain audiences who want to watch shows as they happen in the US. And currently, there is no channel in the country that is satisfying this audience requirement. During our consumer interactions, the one big crib that came out was, “Why do I need to wait for a year to watch a show?”

Generally, this audience will go to web sites such as Torrent and download the shows, and then watch it on the computer or the iPad and this experience is not the greatest. It is an individualistic experience where you generally watch it alone. That’s why we came up with the concept of launching Star World Premiere.

The channel will get you all shows at almost the same time that it is telecast in the US. We have tie ups with the biggest studios - Fox, Disney, Warner and Sony. The viewer will get the best of shows from these studios on one platform. The channel has 26 shows and all of them will be aired around the same time as in the US.  

How will it be differentiated from (i) Star World and (ii) competition?

This channel is completely different from Star World and will have separate audiences. Star World will have a mix of the latest shows as well as long running shows. So you will have Master Chef which is the latest season and running from Monday to Friday at 9 pm. There is ‘Two and half men’ airing from Monday to Friday. You will have the latest season of all the shows which have just concluded in the US happening at 8 pm. So these will be the latest seasons but not shows that are aired simultaneously in the United States. And to ensure that Star World retains its premiumness, there will be five shows which will be aired along with the US telecast at 10 pm.

Hence, Star World will have a mix of long running shows and the latest shows. I would say Star World is clearly a premium offering while Star World Premiere is a notch above that.

In terms of competition, there is no other channel in this country that is showing the shows that Star World Premiere will telecast. It is going to be the only channel that will have all 26 shows broadcast almost simultaneously as in the US. We will have the biggest names – Homeland, Castle, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, White Collar, etc. There will also be a lot of new shows such as Betrayal, Dads, and The Blacklist and so on. 

What will be the genres of content on the channel? Which of those will be dominant?

Currently, there will be all American shows in the genres of drama and comedy. But going forward we will not restrict the content to these two spheres, we will add reality and other genres as well. Further, we would go beyond the US market and get shows from other markets such as UK or Australia.

How much of the content will be locally produced?

This channel will telecast international content; there is no scope for local content, while Star World will continue to have locally produced content. Koffee with Karan will continue to be the big one on Star World. Front Row will also be another locally produced show…

The number of channels has grown, including in English. Is there room for so many? Is there room for more?

There is room for more channels as long as you have a clear positioning and offering. At the end of the day, it’s what viewers want and what you deliver to them. So whether entertainment or movies, as long as you have a clear positioning, it will work. If you look at Star Movies – it is the only channel that has 70 movie premieres a year. Similarly, Star Movies Action has a clear cut positioning and that is it is for people who want only action.

Star World Premiere is positioned looking at the top end of the population comprising of people who buys DVDs of latest international shows, or travel abroad and watch these shows there or download the shows online. Hence, the clear positioning is vital.

How will the new channel be promoted? Would there be any promotion undertaken outside of Star Network channels? What are the digital plans?

Star World Premiere is targeting a very small audience namely just 1 per cent of the population of the country. We are going to aggressively promote it on English networks and being a HD channel it will be pushed on the HD platform (both Hindi and English). Digital is another platform on which it will be heavily promoted because that’s where we see our audience. The platforms on digital are our website, Facebook and the Twitter handle.

So far, we have seen a fabulous response to the channel. On the website we have a ‘pre-book’ segment which has seen a huge response. Even on Facebook, there have been nearly 80,000 likes.

How will you address digital viewership?

There will be no content available on the digital platform. People will come to watch the content on TV because of the quality of telecast and the offering itself. We are trying to get people who watch on digital to convert into TV viewers.

What is the rate of growth of the English entertainment genre in India?

The English entertainment genre is seeing very good growth especially after DAS. Earlier, the viewership would be restricted to a few metros (five or six) but now we are able to reach out to a wider audience. With digitisation, the channel will now be seen in the cities with 1 million plus population and that’s been a big driver. Secondly, earlier the content used to not come clear because small operators had restricted bandwidth, thus the telecast used to be pixilated and grainy but now things have changed. With telecast to smaller towns, the aspiration levels are very high and they want to see English content. So the growth is coming in a big way as consumption increases.

Competition reports that this space is growing at 98 per cent…would it be accurate to say that? From which markets are you seeing this growth and where do you expect future growth from?

Yes, it would be because of the number of households being added on is huge and we can get through to them. Earlier, we used to look at only the metros but with digitisation we have got access to all 1 million-plus population markets. Hence, we are now seeing growth in cities like Pune, Ahmedabad and so on. We are seeing a growth across the country. And we see more and more viewers being added on.

With the channel only on HD, advertising revenue will be limited...

The channel is going to be only on HD because if you look at it from quality, it is best viewed on HD. It will be a subscription channel and will be in the a la carte segment with limited advertising on it. The amount of advertising will be the same that we run on our other HD channels. We intend to monetise the channel through subscription and limited advertising. 

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3 October 2014