India Insight

Star gets fast and furious with U.S. shows on Indian TV

September 28, 2013

Star India wants to attract English-speaking audiences with a television channel that syndicates the latest seasons of American TV shows such as the counterterrorism thriller Homeland and the comedy Modern Family.

Several channels broadcast U.S. shows in India, but Star World Premiere HD is the first to broadcast episodes a day or two after they air in the United States.

Broadcast delays mean that sitcoms or dramas often complete their run in the United States before premiering in India. Fans, unwilling to wait for months, frequently download episodes from the Web.

“I am targeting the top 1 percent — the people who travel abroad, or have lived abroad, are exposed to these shows, and will be willing to pay for premium content,” said Kevin Vaz, who heads English-language channels in India for the television network owned by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

The line-up on Star World Premiere HD, which launched this week, includes new American shows such as the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Michael J. Fox Show.

English-language entertainment programming is a niche market in India, reaching less than 1 percent of 800 million viewers, but has a higher advertisement share because of its urban, upwardly mobile audience, according to a 2013 report by consultancy KPMG.

“India has always been right for this kind of content, but broadcasters have never given it a chance,” said Vaz. “Even the top 1 percent is a huge audience in terms of numbers.”

The Indian television industry is projected to be worth 848 billion rupees ($13.7 billion) by 2017, when the number of cable and satellite households is expected to jump to 173 million, representing 90 percent of Indian families owning a television.

“As digitization catches on, a new brand of viewer will emerge – one who has access to high-speed Internet, has downloaded these series in the past, but doesn’t mind paying 60 rupees ($1) to watch this content on a big screen,” said Shailesh Kapoor, CEO of Ormax Media.

However, fans of foreign TV shows would still be at the mercy of Indian television censors who have little tolerance for adult or potentially offensive content.

On the syndicated show MasterChef Australia a cooking contest that has grown in popularity over the years, the word beef is beeped out during its India telecast as the cow is considered holy by the country’s Hindu majority.

Tim David, a Mumbai resident who has lived in Britain and the United States, said he does not mind paying for TV channels such as Star World Premiere HD.

“If a channel which broadcast good TV shows and was advert free, I would pay for it,” said David. “However, if the content was censored, it would put me off.”

(Editing by Tony Tharakan and Robert MacMillan; Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay, Tony @tonytharakan and Robert @bobbymacReports. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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