Life Ok will compete with Star Plus: Sanjay Gupta

19 Dec,2011


By Rishi Vora


The new gleam in the sky from broadcast major Star India promises a unique viewing experience, differentiated content and a philosophy which it will thrive on. The idea is to have a challenger brand, one that’ll challenge even Star Plus – the No 1 channel in the GEC line-up today.


Life Ok – the new avatar for Star One – was launched on December 18, 2011. The channel will target to first get to the 60-70 GRP mark, and from there its first big milestone – to be a significant player by winning the No 4 position and beating one of the four big players.


How well it suits the Indian viewers is something to look out for. Meanwhile a quick glimpse of what the management is thinking. MxMIndia’s Rishi Vora speaks to Chief Operating Officer Sanjay Gupta on his expectations, and much more. Excerpts:


Q: Why the decision to shut down Star One and launch Life Ok?

Star One as a channel has been there for several years. But it delivered a very average sort of performance. It catered to a niche audience and never quite made an impact. In GRP terms, it clocked about 30-40 GRPs. So there was a need to ask tough questions. We thought there was an opportunity in the GEC landscape to come up with a channel that is unique and differentiated, going by the viewer and the way he consumes content. So we decided to rebrand Star One to Life Ok.


Q: It is said that Star One was not given the required strategic push to compete with Star Plus and other GECs.

Every business can reach its potential. The business idea, in the case of Star One, was to be a niche channel. So in thought terms, I don’t think we were very sharp. We did not have a content offering that was differentiated enough to create a long-lasting impact on consumers’ minds.


Q: So was Star One treated like a second channel? Was it a conscious call that it should not compete with Star Plus?

The question that we asked ourselves was: Should we continue to have a channel which is a second channel or should we really continue to have a channel which fights? Which may be second, third or fourth, but that’s not very important. We thought we should have a channel that’ll compete with every channel – be it Zee, Colors, Sony or even Star Plus. The whole idea of changing the name to Life Ok was to liberate the channel so that it could cater to consumers as a brand and as a content destination. So that it could be different and unique and in the process have a more meaningful presence than Star One.


Q: So Life Ok is not going to be the second Hindi GEC channel of the Star Network?

It is in the Hindi GEC, one more offering from Star India. Star Plus is our first offering. The reason why we have changed Star One to Life Ok is because this channel has come up basis our understanding of viewers and we believe there is a gap. The name carries a philosophy. Unlike Star Plus for example, where we connected Star and Plus-and it became Star Plus, Life Ok is a name with a purpose.


Q: Was there any research done on the name? What was the thought process behind naming it Life Ok?

The idea was to have a name which captures the philosophy of the channel. A lot of research and consumer work has gone into deciding the name.


Q: Can you elaborate on the philosophy?

Let me explain. We’re entering a very, very tough competitive market – the Hindi GEC market. So why will this work? In my view, this is likely to work is because this channel comes with a very unique promise which consumers and viewers will see every day. Stories and characters of this channel will come on every day – not for five days but for all seven days in a week. As a viewer you want to seek whatever you like – it can be music, films, radio, newspapers, and also in my mind the characters of the shows you watch on daily basis. So content will be offered to consumers seven days a week.


Also, stories on other GECs are not pacy enough, in terms of the speed. So what we’re doing on this channel is, we will tell three stories in an hour unlike the norm which is two stories every hour. We will tell a story in 20 minutes, so when viewers come to our channel, they will find the stories very pacy.


Q: What is the thought process behind the two-minute break?

The two-minute break is again a viewer experience. I don’t want a big break. As a viewer that will put me off. A lot of people get distracted with a long break and end up not watching your show. So with three stories in an hour and the two-minute breaks, we’re telling the viewers that they don’t need to go anywhere. They know it’s coming back in two minutes, so they are more likely to be on your channel if the commercial breaks are not very long.


Q: But that means there will be an impact on the bottomline.

In the short run, yes. But in the long run, it brings you more eyeballs. Once we have a set of viewers, we can then make up…


Q: What is the programming strategy for the weekends?

Fiction shows, non-fiction shows, we will use Sach Ka Saamna every day including the weekends. We will also have movies on weekends, in the afternoons. Afternoon time is very important-the whole family gets together and watches TV. So yes, we will have a variety of content running on the weekends.


Q: We’ve seen some failures in the broadcast industry – 9x and Real being prime examples. So what are the things that you need to be extra careful about?

Doing a new channel is a very costly exercise. Therefore, there will be a huge amount of risk that you always run, whether you refresh a channel or you create a new channel. In either of the cases, it is important to have a differentiated offering. If the viewer is getting the same thing on many other channels, why is he going to watch yours? The idea for this channel, therefore, is to keep the viewer at the centre and offer him something unique. So if you’re able to stick to that – not only in the philosophy and the thinking, but also on the content you offer every day, then it gives you more chances of being successful.


Q: True, but second GECs which have launched in the past haven’t done well. SAB, you may say, is an exception.

Yes, Sony is a good example where it has two channels – Sony and SAB. And they’re working well, so if there is an appropriate positioning, relevant content, it would work. I think the learning which I mentioned earlier, if we have a unique proposition, keeping the consumer at the centre and differentiated content, it should work. And Sony and SAB is a good example in my mind to quote. Hopefully, Star One can learn from that and create a more meaningful positioning.


Q: Are you going to roll out shows which cater specifically to the youth, the single largest segment of India? Something like Bigg Boss which does well in that department?

We’re very focused on youth because we believe that is an important target audience. So if you look at the non-fiction we are beginning with – Sach Ka Saamna with Rajeev Khandelwal, where the big issue which we are tackling is corruption. Now, that is something which is at the top of every young person’s mind in the country. From the content, which you will see in the next few days, in terms of the message it delivers, it is not about saying let’s point fingers at others. It is about saying, ‘If somebody has to clean up the system, he or she has to start with us.’ That’s the message. And it is very much focused on the youth of India. Another show – Devon Ke Dev… Mahadev – we’re talking about one of the biggest gods of the country for whom most youngsters, especially women, fast for Mahadev in their early teens and before marriage. So that is a very unique thing we have on the channel and that’s the beginning of FPC every day. The rest of the content is dealing with absolutely the key issues which youth will emphasise on in a really big way.


Q: But mythologies haven’t done very well for other channels. Colors and Imagine have tried it and haven’t produced fantastic results.

I think Colors did fairly well on Jai Shri Krishna – the mythology serial they had. So if positioned well, it can work. We believe there is a market for mythology in a big way. It will have a different kind of emotion being catered to consumers.


Q: Did you consider doing a big-ticket show like KBC, Bigg Boss, bringing a popular celebrity hosting the show?

I think we have been very careful in the kind of emotions we want to deliver. And we wanted to be true to the philosophy of the channel that we’ve created. So we’ve stepped away from bringing a big celebrity. If somebody comes, he or she should be able to respect the values of the brand. And it is about cherishing what you have as a philosophy ‘Jo Apne Pass Hai Woh Khas Hai‘ and that’s why all the content pieces are on the lines of that philosophy. In fact everything we’re doing is true to that. And that’s the reason we’ve stayed away from having a big celebrity on the channel.


Q: So going forward if there is a need to have a Amitabh Bachchan or a Shahrukh Khan, would you go for it?

At this point in time I would say if it fits in nicely with the philosophy of the channel, then we will definitely consider it.


Q: Why Madhuri Dixit as the Sutradhar?

There is a lot of learning that’ll come out from the shows we’re putting up on the channel. What we wanted to do by bringing Madhuri was: as we show the content, everybody takes away their own understanding. What she does on the channel is, she poses questions, brings in her understanding and her life reality, and really puts a lens in front of viewers to evaluate and see the content well. And therefore, it really raises the question – are we really cherishing what we have or not? Or are we worrying only about possibly the dreams of future alone? And, in her life she’s done the same. She has been one of the big superstars and has taken a break – been a family person. So she has balanced her life very well. So the persona fits in well with the channel’s philosophy. And she hopefully will be able to raise the questions in everybody’s mind and help viewers view the content through a new lens.


Q: But what is the fan following of Madhuri Dixit today? Do you think there are enough fans, because quite clearly, her days are gone.

Firstly, all big stars have a really valuable equity in consumers’ minds. But the important thing is how this fits in with the channel’s philosophy. And in my mind, it fits in very, very well.


Q: How has the response been from the trade?

Mixed response, I would say. People are surprised that the brand name doesn’t carry Star in the name – that’s been one of the questions from a trade point of view. And they’re wondering why. And also the other trade response is that we have a good variety of content. So they feel that the content looks very powerful and hopefully, the next few months will tell us how the business goes.


Q: What will be the channel’s reach on Day One?

Star One today reaches out to around 40-45 per cent of people every week. Those are the people who come every week to view Star One. Hopefully those people would definitely come to see the channel and basis the marketing campaigns, other sets of viewers will get curious about the channel and they’d come and like to watch it. So anywhere between 40-45 per cent definitely should come and maybe some more would like to come and check out the channel. And finally the content strength will determine how many people will become regular watchers.


Q: Do you expect to be the No 4 channel, beating Zee, say in a month’s time after launch?

Star One is at around 40 GRPs right now. And if we grow significantly, that’s the first good number to look at, because this journey is a long journey. We are not starting it to really take a big leap in week 1or week 4. If you’re able to grow from where we are significantly, that’ll be the first milestone. And as I said earlier, it competes with every channel in the GEC space. If the content is powerful, it’ll grow – but the first initial aim would be to get to a 60 or 70 GRP mark. That will be an important milestone for us.


Q: How long will the aggressive marketing campaign continue?

We started this campaign around a week ago. We started it on December 12, it continues in full intensity now and it will continue for another few weeks. So it will be a four-week campaign which will run supporting the channel launch.

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One response to “Life Ok will compete with Star Plus: Sanjay Gupta”

  1. Vinnie says:

    I like this channel very much. All the serials are new and good.