Will the name change work for MCCS?

17 Apr,2012

 

By Johnson Napier

 

The media has been agog with news of the two looking at options beyond the relationship, only for them to dodge the belief. But all doubts were put to rest on Monday when media giant Ananda Bazaar Patrika (ABP) finally announced it was shedding the Star branding from its slew of channels.

 

Star India and ABP agreed to discontinue the Star brand affiliation with Media Content and Communications Services (MCCS). Of the many reasons that were doing the rounds, the one that was loud was discontent over editorial content, leading to the two calling it quits. Star had reportedly served notice in January 2012 (see Mediaah!).

 

As a result of this decision, Hindi news channel, STAR News will now be rechristened ABP News, while Bengali news channel STAR Ananda will become ABP Ananda and Marathi news channel STAR Majha will be called ABP Majha. The three 24-hour news channels are owned by the Media Content and Communications Pvt Ltd (MCCS) – a joint venture between the Ananda Bazar Patrika Group and STAR India Pvt Ltd. MCCS, formed in March 2003, is a 74:26 joint venture between ABP TV and STAR News Broadcasting.

 

While the move will enable ABP to venture out in the news broadcast space on its own as it wishes to promote and establish its own brands through its subsidiary company – MCCS, for Star the focus will be on building their brand on their core business, i.e. general entertainment. A release issued on behalf of Star Group read: Given the current regulatory environment and structural issues ailing the Indian cable and satellite television market and the news genre in particular, Star took this extremely difficult decision to withdraw its brand from the genre.”

 

According to the release, the discontinuation will come in effect in phases from a period of 2-4 months and the partners will work together to ensure a smooth transition during this period.

 

Speaking to MxMIndia Ashok Venkatramani, CEO, MCCS, said, “No, it’s not a set back at all. With the Marathi and Bengali channels, Majha and Ananda as suffixes are unique and have grown in popularity and acceptance. Of course, that’s not the case with Hindi where the suffix is ‘News’ and hence generic. So, yes, Hindi is a challenge on a relative scale, but not so with Marathi and Bengali. (see interview)”

 

But while the three channels have identified a name for themselves in the respective markets and have been engraved in the minds of the viewers for a long time, it will be interesting to see how a name change exercise will impact the course for the network over a period of time.

“The first 180 days of a brand name change are the most crucial and critical days. It is in these frenetic days of frenetic brand activity that a name change can be made successful or not,” writes note brank expert and consultant Harish Bijoor in an exclusive analysis on the name change for MxMIndia. “No wonder then that you see a flurry of advertising activity that goes in to establish a new name solidly in the mind of the consumer.”

Drawing implications over the new announcement, Anita Nayyar, CEO India & SouthAsia, Havas Media said that the popularity of the channels may take a beating if they toy around with the content and if the change is not expressed loudly and clearly to the viewers. “One will have to assess the extent to which the two have called a split in partnership. But if you see the association, Star, as such is a name that has been engraved in the minds of the people for a long time, and therefore it will be tough for the viewers to overnight respond to the change in a positive way. If they announce the change in a big way and do tremendous activity and promotions around it and create awareness levels, then only will the audience respond to the change. Otherwise past examples have shown that no matter how big a brand or name, if the change in name is not relayed properly to the masses, it will see a decline in popularity and fortunes.”

 

On the impact it would have on the advertisers, she said: “It will be a wait-and-watch game for the advertisers. I feel the current deals will go on as scheduled but new deals will depend on what the change will hold in store for the brand.”

 

Mona Jain, CEO, Vivaki Exchange, said: “I don’t see the change having any impact on the popularity or the ratings as such. First, one will have to see what is the exact nature of the deal? If the team and other infrastructure related activity remains the same then there wouldn’t be an impact as such. Also, what is important is the quality of content that is played on these channels. If there is no change from the previous deal, then the viewer will continue to stick to the channels the way they used to earlier. We will have to see how it pans out over the course of time.”

 

According to Tarun Nigam, Executive Director, India North, Starcom Worldwide, this could be an opportune time for ABP to make a name for itself in this arena. “I don’t see this development having any impact on what is currently being offered. If the content remains the same, if there is no breakdown in team and so on, then it shouldn’t matter at all. In fact I think this is a perfect opportunity for ABP to finally make a name for themselves in the news broadcast space, as they already are a big name in the print space. They, anyways, are a very strong and deep-rooted organization and have sustained themselves as a commendable force to reckon with.”

 

According to Nigam, in a market like Kolkata where ABP are a dominant force, this deal will enable ABP to showcase more regional offerings that they specialize in, which will only catapult the interests of the viewers at large. “One will have to wait and see what will be effects of the change in other markets like Maharashtra,Delhiand others. For all you know, ABP might just emerge a stronger player in these markets as well.”

 

The ball, for now, seems to be in ABP’s court as they finally get to pursue their dream of going solo and 360-degree in the news space. With healthy ratings and a roster of loyal advertisers willing to cling on to them, the priority for ABP is now to endorse an enduring message to one and all and go loud with their promotional activities announcing the new shift. Till then it is wait-and-watch.

 

 

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