'We are looking at newer formats'

Written by Shaheen Mansuri | Updated: Sep 13 2010, 07:01am hrs
Uday Shankar, who took over as CEO of Star India in 2007, believes innovation and novel formats are the only way to sustain competition in general entertainment channels. At a time when the GEC space is growing exponentially, Star Plus is back to number one position after its archrival Colors dethroned it from the numero uno position on the ratings charts in 2008-09. In an interaction with Shaheen Mansuri of FE, he speaks about how changes are steadily showing results. Excerpts:

What made you introduce Master Chef India in the Hindi GEC space

Star Plus has always been a platform for mega stars. Akshay Kumar is the reigning superstar and is the core of this show. This is not a cookery show. It has an exciting format which shows that great cooking not only leads to great food but also great drama! It is packed with a gamut of emotions, excitement and competition, which is easy to connect and will keep viewers at the edge. It is a category breakthrough in that sense. Star Plus will continue to create content which mirrors the changing society and provides viewers with a fresh perspective to life and relationships, with greater energy, passion, scale and quality.

You have moved ahead and taken pole position, but the gap between your competitorsColors and Zee TVis still quite narrow.

We have recently unveiled a new logo with a promise -Rishta wahi, soch nayi (old relationship, new thought). This is the first time in the history of television brands in India that an attempt to refresh has been made with such depth of detail, permeating to the core of its business. We are committed to entertaining our viewers with content that propels them in a new direction and setting the agenda for entertainment on Hindi GECs.

Stiff competition is expected in the GEC space, as even Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group is set to launch some television channels. How do you view this

Why talk of only R-ADAG launching channels Each year, we see hundreds of channels being launched in the entertainment space. Indian audience has evolved and they are looking for a different set of content. We are constantly looking at newer formats to appeal to our audience. For the past ten years, we are focussed on what a contemporary Indian likes and connects with.

High carriage fee is a concern that is eating into the profits of broadcasters. Any comments

Carriage fee is typically something that is the result of the economy revolving around shortages. Since nothing is being done to fight this menace, it looks as if the regulator is a willing party in perpetuating this shortage. Unless, the regulatory body creates digitalisation of cable network, the menace of high carriage feel will remain. The regulator has to push cable operators to go digital which looks difficult. There is a huge cash economy in black which is stopping people from fixing this problem. Huge carriage fee is stifling the growth of the broadcasting industry.

You have recently been appointed as the president of Indian Broadcasting Foundation. What are the immediate issues which you would like to take up

I don't have any immediate issues to deal with. But certainly, I have a couple of things in my mind, like building a better understanding of the constitution of the television industry within the key stakeholders in the fraternity. I think getting a consensus between the broadcasters, government and other stakeholders on key activities that can unlock the value and make broadcasting business more robust is very essential. Unless the business model is robust, it cannot do its social role. Third, there should be a certain amount of self regulation in the industry.