The Intensity Of Asian Ambition
Such was the success of Star Plus, the Hindi general entertainment channel that transformed the way TV was made, bought and sold in India after it was re-launched eight years ago, that Star Group wants to do it all over again.
This time the News Corp-owned broadcaster has its eye on India’s regional-language segment, an area it sees as overdue for a hike in production values and an influx of fresh new content, hoping that its intervention will rewrite the rules for regional TV in India with Star leading the way, just as it did in Hindi GE.
Such a strategy would never work in Hindi GE today however, muses Paul Aiello, Star Group’s regional CEO. There’s more money and more players in Hindi GE than ever before, making a similarly disruptive ploy near impossible.
“That strategy only applies at certain circumstances when you can differentiate yourself,” Aiello remarks. “Not when you have the armament of cash but also the creative capability.”
Aiello is casting his eye over the rest of the region to see whether the strategy may apply outside India – in certain markets it may, in others it may not be necessary.
Star can draw upon its experience of different markets, but that in itself, Aiello says, is not the answer. What really counts is being plugged into and being able to respond to the local needs of each market.
Scale no easy matter
“Building strong local businesses and regional capabilities requires a complex business structure and requires a sophisticated way of working with different partners. A company like Star is extremely complex. To make that business work and achieve synergies and the benefit of that scale is no easy matter and not meant for all people. It’s only for a few that that strategy will work.”
The ambition remains undimmed but the goal of building a regional media business in Asia remains as hard as it’s ever been. Star operated in the shadow of domestic rivals for eight years before striking real success in India, and has also suffered setbacks in its quest to build successful local franchises in other Asian markets, notably in China and, more recently, Indonesia.
Nonetheless, the network remains one of a handful of players that have managed some degree of local success across different markets in Asia, perhaps furthest down the road in terms of building a true pan-regional network but still with a long way to go.
One of the challenges is getting the priorities right, Aiello says, dismissing a lot of activity in the market as noise.
“You can’t read the ticker-tape every day,” he says. “It might throw you off what your priorities and strategies are. That doesn’t mean you don’t pay attention to what’s going on, and have respect for what competitors are doing, but you have to put that in perspective, of what your own strategy is and what you’re trying to achieve.”
This is an edited extract from a full-length feature published in the Q3 2008 edition of The Asia Media Journal.