As a rule, we don’t write about media products’ anniversaries and birthdays.
One, in the world of media, age doesn’t matter much. A two-year old newspaper, for example, might have greater circulation and readership than a 100-year old one. The same is true for any other form of media. History means nothing in this harsh world.
Two, each month will see some media product or the other celebrating some anniversary or the other. Why does the reader care, how does it matter to him or her?
The stance has cost us friends, has gained us enemies, and, as my colleagues in ad sales remind me, made it difficult from a revenue perspective.
What am I doing, writing an edit on the ten years of STAR Plus Hindi? Why should I write about it, when a one-year old Colors managed to overtake what was then a nine-year old STAR Plus?
Fundamentally, it’s because of the way the channel has kept re-inventing itself. STAR Plus was launched as a special interest channel that targeted the English-speaking population in SEC A and B households, delivering international programming. As management faced the reality that, to make a dent in India, they had to introduce programming that was more relevant to Indian audiences, the first, hesitant steps were the made-in-India but made-in-English programs like the India Business Report, India Business Week and the Amul India Show. These were followed by shows like Nikki Tonight and Kricket with a K. A year or two down the road, if I remember right, came the night news produced by NDTV for STAR Plus.
In a funny way, India Business Report, produced by TV18, almost certainly gave Raghav Bahl the confidence that he knew what the viewers wanted. Finally, the confidence resulted in TV18 launching CNBC-TV18, which led to CNN-IBN, and so on. The rest is history. And what a history. The nightly news slot on STAR Plus, similarly, resulted in Prannoy Roy gaining the confidence to launch his own media company and his own news channel, NDTV 24X7, which led to NDTV India, and so on. The rest is history. When STAR Plus went Hindi and hit the big time with Kaun Banega Crorepati, it saw Amitabh Bachchan featuring on the small screen for the first time. Actors saw TV as a possible career option. Synergy, the producers of KBC, launched by erstwhile quizmaster Siddharth, was now a producer to be reckoned with.
The consolidation of the leadership thanks to the momentum provided by KBC saw Ekta Kapoor becoming the queen of the small screen.
Each time STAR Plus did something to reinvent itself, it reinvented the business itself, in a manner of speaking.
That’s the hallmark of a leader – the leader changes the rules, the leader sets the agenda.
And in the past few months, as Colors first nipped at the heels of STAR Plus and then overtook it, STAR Plus had to find a way to reinvent itself again. Breaking from the mould, discarding the Saas-Bahu formula that had held them in good stead till the emergence of Colors, the empire struck back to occupy the number one slot.
The gap is too small to say STAR Plus is safe. What is apparent, though, is that they have the ability, the appetite and the courage to say that they were wrong, to say that change is required and reinvent the channel all over again.
There’s not much new that is visible in the channel to coincide with the new identity and positioning.
But the positioning itself is well argued and well thought through. The cookery show with Akshay Kumar makes one look afresh at what was one of many filler programming options. Given STAR Plus' record, I’ll keep an eye on Akshay in the kitchen.