The action on the small screen is set to quicken. Three years after launching its last channel, Star Gold, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star India is launching two new Hindi channels -- Star Utsav, to be launched next week, and a channel that may be called Star One, later in the year.
The two new channels will take the number of Star channels in India to eight, excluding channels such as Channel V that Star distributes, and the south India-based Vijay TV.
More channels are on the drawing board but Star India Chief Executive Office Peter Mukerjea says it is premature to discuss them.
The broadcasting company is also eyeing a major foray into south India, where it doesn't have a major direct presence. But its direct-to-home joint venture with the Tatas will require content in south Indian languages. So it is mulling its options -- alliances, buying a company and so on.
Mukerjea conceded that with its Hindi programming, Star India largely remained a north Indian phenomenon. He said south India accounted for half the cable and satellite television viewing market, and that Star India's revenues and profits had been growing by about 30 per cent and to maintain this growth rate in the years ahead Star had to move into south India.
In a wide-ranging discussion on Friday at the Star office in Mumbai, Mukerjea explained, in the context of the new channels, that Star India wanted to jack up ad rates but couldn't do so because the rates of its competitors, Sony Entertainment Television and Zee Networks, were so far behind Star's rates.
"We want to be number one, number two and number three, followed by the others," he said.
Star Utsav is to be a free-to-air channel whose programming will focus on classic Star programmes that have already been aired on Star Plus in