Ever since the Janata Curfew and lockdown kicked in for general public safety, players in the media and entertainment industry, across sub-sectors and regardless of size, and particularly in the broadcasting space, have faced enormous challenges that have hurt performance and delivery due to a combination of multiple factors. Factors like a drying up of the fresh content pipelines due to stoppage of shoots, and revenue challenges due to a tightening of advertising budgets. Plus the concomitant, growing challenges that even forced salary cuts and more on the talent fronts across broadcasters, which have had industry pundits predicting gloom.
And in the midst of the yet ongoing and challenging atmosphere of enormous circumspection and even a still-present despondency, one has witnessed something remarkable. With a broadcast group that has seen such steady growth in various parts that its whole, today, has actually pegged its biggest and most remarkable growth ever, across the history of its existence of more than a quarter century in India as a strong often dominant television broadcasting conglomerate.
This is the Star Network, which has crossed a significant and, one dares say, difficult, milestone of 31% network share in the country.* When you consider the number of its well known broadcast bretheren jostling for a bigger space on the television broadcast bandwagon that commanded a Rs 29000-crore adex in 2019, that’s a tremendous achievement. And what makes it even more remarkable is that on achieving the 31% market share, the Star Network finds itself at 2X of the nearest competition. Never before have we witnessed such absolute domination in the television broadcast space.
In Hindi Entertainment, the Star India network has maintained its leadership position with a whopping ~33% market share. Star Plus has consistently delivered 250+ GRPs, and meanwhile, Star Utsav continues to lead in the the FTA market with a similarly high 33%+ share.
And let us look at the language channels and regional markets. Star Vijay created history by gaining leadership in weekday prime time in TN Urban 15+ for the first time in 20 years. It crossed a remarkable, never-before 1000 GRPs for the first time ever on the back of the launch of the Kamal Haasan-anchored Bigg Boss Season 4. In fact, Star Vijay had taken the leadership of weekday prime time even before the launch of Bigg Boss on the back of a strong fiction line-up led by Bharathi Kannamma and Pandian Stores.
As for Star Maa, it continues to deliver 1000+ GRPs week on week on the back of a successful launch of the new Big Boss season. Earlier, Big Boss season 4 launched at an all-time high rating of 18.5 TVR. Star network is the clear leader in Telugu on GEC + Movies + Music with a 37% market share.
In West Bengal, Star Jalsha has taken leadership over Zee, clocking its highest ever GRPs (766).
And Asianet continues to dominate Malayalam GEC (Kerala Urban 15+) viewership with 48% market share.
In the Marathi-speaking markets of Maharashtra and even Goa, Star Pravah is now the #1 Marathi GEC channel in U+R 2+ for the past 1 month. Also, the channel crossed 300 GRPs (Urban 15+) for the first time since BARC.
Star Suvarna too, making important strides, has emerged as a strong #2 in Karnataka, and is resolutely inching closer to leadership position.
As for the single largest television tent pole in India, the Dream 11 IPL 2020, it opened successfully on Star Sports with the first match delivering around 30% growth over the past year. Till just a bit before the time of writing this, the first half of IPL 2020 had registered a strong 20% growth over the same phase during last year.
So that has been a remarkable achievement of various verticals pulling ever greater weight, and working seamlessly together too, to acquire the largest ever market share in India’s phenomenally large, significant and lucrative television broadcast space. And consider that in light of a few other things: This is a Star Network that, apart from the lockdown, has also had to negotiate the winds of change normally expected when a bigger entity acquires another – changes in styles of functioning, operating, perhaps even priorities of business, and, of course, leadership styles and newer team members… all, areas in which both parties take time to gradually settle to some kind of like-mindedness, equilibrium, and a smooth-again fluidity of operations. Nothing more or less than what is par for any such M&A course, here, but also remember, the one man who has unarguably been India’s most remarkable leader, driver and visionary evangelist in Media & Entertainment, Uday Shankar, has resigned to pursue other things. Plus there have been some other high-profile exits.
And there were many media experts expounding, propounding, that things would be extremely difficult for a Star sans Shankar. But, to Uday Shankar’s eternal credit, he has always handpicked the best people to take charge of the most important verticals in his extended media group, and that empowerment has stood Star India in great stead. And is the best legacy in leadership Shankar leaves behind.
So this could well be like a report card of sorts for K Madhavan, Managing Director – Star & Disney India, who oversees the company’s television business across entertainment, sports and regional channels and more in India. He has already done a great job of building a thriving regional entertainment portfolio ever since he joined Star India way back some 12 years ago in 2009 as its South Head. And now, during the months of the lockdown — and even after it opens up, hopefully soon — seems poised to reap the benefits of, and drive, the entire network’s excellent work, focus, strategies and commitment to even better results. It will take at least a decade for the tiny screen to be able to stand up to half the height of broadcast television. (Remember, the OTT space is very low in profitability and paying subscribers as a percentage of the absolute number of claimed app downloads, at a guesstimated 30 million paying subscribers from the total claimed downloads of what, a guesstimated 500mn downloads? Do the math.)
India has around 325 million homes, of which, BARC has pegged the current TV homes at 197million. Let us say that it is 200 million. So with the remarkable leadership in Television broadcast and a current market share this, at 31%, is twice that of its nearest competitor, the Star network should be poised spread itself in the estimated white space of at least 125 million households waiting to become first-time TV homes in the country.
Now that’s a good thought for Star India. And something to mull over for the competition.
*Sources – BARC wk 41