Author: Business standard
UTV Entertainment Television, broadcasting arm of UTV, is to launch a Bollywood entertainment channel in mid-August. To be called UTV Stars and targeted primarily at the Hindi-speaking market, it will be a paid channel, confirmed company officials.
UTV, which had roped in M K Anand as CEO of its broadcasting business in 2009, has built a 75-people content and marketing team for the new channel in the past 15 months.
Anand elaborates, “The idea is to produce most of the shows in-house and keep programming costs in check. That said, we would have two-three shows sourced from third-party production houses but those formats will be kept at a minimum.”
Anand, who quit as business head of Zoom in September 2009, is also heading UTV’s four other entertainment channels — UTV Movies, UTV Bindass, Bindass Movies and UTV World Movies.
UTV’s Bollywood entertainment channel will compete directly with Times Group’s Zoom TV, in the market since 2004. “We will draw in synergies from UTV’s motion pictures business. Our programming will have concept shows focusing on celebrities interacting with fans, profiles of superstars, Bollywood trade analysis and music shows, among other formats,” details Anand.
Nikhil Gandhi, recently made the business head for UTV Stars, adds, “Our shows will bring Bollywood celebrities closer than you have ever seen on TV. We have a great working relationship with leading superstars and as UTV releases close to 15 movies every year, we will have a lot of content that can be presented to viewers first-hand.”
Gandhi, who worked with Zoom Television, MTV (Viacom 18) and Times Response (Times Group), positions UTV Stars as “an entertainment channel that would probably draw viewers away from general entertainment channels”.
Both Anand and Gandhi say UTV Stars isn’t just hoping to claim share from channels such as Zoom TV or E24.
“We have the biggest Bollywood film production studio and that gives us the edge over everyone else. UTV releases about 15 films a year and it automatically gives us defining content over competition,” underlines Gandhi.
UTV Stars will have to compete for eyeballs with Reliance Broadcast Network’s Big Magic, positioned as a regional entertainment channel for the core Hindi heartland and featuring humour, music and Bollywood.
The channel recently clocked close to the 10-million mark (Week 27—TAM ratings) on the back of fresh prime time shows, doubling audience size from its nearest competition in UP, MP and Bihar. The channel overtook Mahuaa TV, Dabaang, Dhamaal, Sahara Samay and Zee News UP, among others.
UTV’s television segment (it includes the broadcasting and content businesses) reported revenue of Rs 101.4 crore in the fourth quarter of 2010-11, marking a growth rate of nearly 53 per cent year-on-year. In the past, UTV has been able to turn its channels profitable (at the Ebit level) in two-three years, compared to the three-four years taken by other players and Anand believes UTV Stars would be no different. Among its television channels, UTV Movies, UTV Bindaas and UTV Action have already reached break-even. The fourth, UTV World Movies, is expected to do so in the second quarter of 2012-13, Anand claims.
The Walt Disney Co holds a 32 per cent overall stake in the UTV group and a 15 per cent share in its television business.
While ad rates at UTV Action and Bindaas have increased by 100-150 per cent, Gandhi says the new channel has been received by advertisers with reasonable interest. “We haven’t begun our road shows with advertisers but initial talks are encouraging. A few advertisers have expressed interest to be associated with our programmes from the time of the launch.”
Targeting a 40 per cent reach in the Hindi-speaking markets, UTV Stars is currently negotiating distribution deals with two leading DTH (direct-to-home) players and cable operators. UTV Stars will be bundled with the other UTV channels on the DTH platform in the launch phase.
From Ficci-KPMG data, there should be 143 million television households in India by 2014, of which 133 million are expected to have cable and satellite connections. Getting the distribution network right will be critical to UTV Star’s launch, admits Anand.
“We should be able to launch UTV Stars in all metros and leading cities in the first phase, which means signing on at least two major DTH and the top four cable network distributors in the north, south and west in the first phase,” he said.