STAR Plus ad rates slip by a quarter

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STAR India, the country�۪s largest broadcaster, is facing unprecedented pressure. After five years of continuous growth, the channel share and ad rates of STAR Plus, STAR India��s flagship channel, have dropped by as much as 20-30% in the last one year. STAR Plus, which accounts for over three-fourths of STAR India�۪s total revenues, has not been able to command last year�۪s ad rates on account of a significant drop in channel share, media sources told ET.

STAR Plus�۪ share has been dipping sharply on the prime-time slot ��� a band it monopolised till about a year ago. During the 9-10 pm band, for example, its share was down to 22% in the November-December 2006 period compared to 28% in November-December 2005. ZEE�۪s share, on the other hand, shot up from 4% to 14% during the same period.

STAR India president, ad sales and distribution, Paritosh Joshi said: “During a substantial part of last year, ZEE did make considerable headway on the 9-10 pm slot, and our aggregate channel share was impacted. But the attrition has been mended in the past few weeks and STAR continues to be bigger than both the No 2 and No 3 channels put together.”

“Rates are a function of programme performance. If there�۪s a consistent loss in channel share, it puts a lot of pressure on the channel,” said Basab Dutta Chowdhury, COO, Madison Media Plus.

Take STAR Plus�۪ main draws ��� ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ and ‘Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki’. Rates on these two shows, which were in the region of Rs 2.2-2.4 lakh per 10 seconds one year ago, are now averaging Rs 1.7-1.8 lakh for 10 seconds.

Says Maxus India MD Ajit Varghese: “Some amount of market rationalisation is definitely happening on ad rates. However, it�۪s being offset by higher inventory sold.”

Consumer fatigue, heterogenous viewing patterns and the rising popularity of reality shows impacted the channel�۪s fortunes negatively, say media sources. Besides, STAR�۪s other entertainment channel STAR One hasn�۪t generated numbers as per expectations, with the exception of one-off shows like Nach Baliye and Laughter Challenge. “Till a year ago, STAR could command a premium because it was market leader by a huge margin. Now the gap between STAR and rivals ZEE and Sony has narrowed down,” sources said.

However, Mr Joshi said that the broadcaster�۪s revenues have continued to beat the industry growth rate of 12-13%. “Our ad revenues have been growing by 20-30%,” he said.

ZEE�۪s prime time serials ‘Kasamh Se’ and ‘Saat Phere’, and even others like ‘Dulhan’ and ‘Betiyan’ have eaten into STAR Plus�۪ share.

Sources add that STAR advanced ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ (KBC-3) by a couple of months to January this year to counter the cricket World Cup which commences in March. “STAR is depending heavily on the Shah Rukh Khan-hosted ‘KBC-3’ to boost channel share and revenues. Viewership is bound to get diverted to SET Max ��� the World Cup broadcaster,” sources said.

Over the past couple of years, STAR has been trying to derisk its business operations by tapping non-broadcasting revenue options, such as the Internet, mobile entertainment, and licensing and merchandising. The broadcaster, which follows a July-June financial year, posted revenues of about Rs 1,000 crore last year, industry sources said.

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