[intro]After much suspense, on 2nd December, 2015, MAA TV has officially become part of the Star TV’s global network. Insights into the MAA’s golden appeal for Star India and what this means for the Telugu viewers.[/intro]
The much-awaited, reported deal of Star TV’s acquisition of MAA TV for Rs.2500 crore (apprx) got smoothly completed without further delay on December 2, 2015. It is one of the game-changing acquisitions by Rupert Murdoch’s team in India led by Uday Shankar of a vernacular channel which comes with four new channels – MAA TV, MAA Movies, MAA Gold and MAA Music and a catalogue of over 1200 top-notch movies of Tollywood.
For Fox’s Star TV network, the buyout of MAA TV gives them access to the most vibrant filmy-entertainment channel in the two states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and gives the fledgling Media empire a leg-up compared to the players like Sony and Disney. Star TV is already a broad-based network with top viewership in sports (Star Sports 1, 2 and 3), Star Plus, National Geographic, Star Movies, LifeIsOK and presence in Kerala (Asianet) and Tamil Nadu (Star Vijay). Now Star owns MAA TV.
The best part of acquiring MAA TV has been the loyal viewership of the film-crazy Telugu audience apart from some of the biggest blockbusters in Telugu from “Baahubali” to “Attarintiki Dared”, from “Pokiri” to “Magadheera”. Rupert Murdoch’s style of hands-off functioning with a clear local flavour has ensured every entity acquired by it in the last decade turns to dizzy heights. Far from being autocratic and integrative in his approach, Murdoch’s style is to let the operating leaders and the home-grown talent call the shorts and build scale and momentum. It was the same whether it was Star Vijay which drove innovative programming to counter Sun TV’s stranglehold and started capturing the second spot for many years now. In Kerala, Asianet was the number one choice before it came into Star’s fold.
Outside Asia, Murdoch’s style was also to elevate programming with digital quality, enhance viewer’s experience with upgrades of quality and multiple formats of perusal (Hotstar etc.) and algorithms which make use of the state-of-the-art HD viewing. For example, even before getting acquired by Star TV, watch how MAA TV used to take the digital viewership count for TRPs versus a channel like Zee Telugu (which still uses alphanumeric signals which pop up on the screen like XoCAK12897X and so on) versus ETV (which is still using non-HDTV definition).
In many ways, the thinking of a progressive and professional set up led by industrialist N Prasad, Megastar Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna and C Ramakrishna have ensured MAA TV’s ascent was more than linear and assumed geometric proportions by 2014 when the PAT jumped from Rs.85 crores to over Rs.130 crores which is a staggering achievement. Star TV now wants to take the PAT to Rs.200 crores in the coming years.
Right from strategic bidding for blockbusters (Bahubali, Magadheera, Attarintiki Daaredi) and niche films (Anand, Athadu, Andale Rakshasi), MAA TV redefined entertainment for the TV-crazy audience who were not content with just old classics dished out by ETV and Tamil serials dubbed by Gemini TV for years. MAA TV took some innovative steps in highlighting NGOs who are doing path-breaking work, dubbed some iconic serials like “Hara Hara Mahadeva” and “Chinnari Pelli Koothuru” to create buzz alongwith that epic series of “Meelo Evaru Koteswarudu” (KBC series). Even in marquee events, MAA TV brought in the best of blockbuster events and celebrity get-to-gethers much before the current craze of most vernacular channels to cover events which pull in eyeballs without sloppy breaking news headlines.
All this sounds like a dream a decade back when MAA TV was floundering with a promoter like Muralkrishnama Raju until the team of professionals led by Nagarjuna and Nimmagadda Prasad roped in Chiranjeevi and infused order and professionalism into the way things are done at MAA TV. From nowhere, the channel jumped to the top ten channels in the country in terms of standards set in Financial Reporting, a task accomplished by the professionalism of the senior management team. The question of closing accounts in time and giving healthier profits was a distant nightmare for most Telugu channels who are either driven by opacity of funds utilisation or non-interest in fair and transparent disclosures, especially rivals like ETV and Gemini TV. MAA TV changed all of that and created a value that is today a jewel in the crown of the Star TV empire – the same empire that owns such brands such as the National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, Star Movies and Star Sports. Hope the Telugu audience will be treated for a bigger entertainment hereafter now that a local channel like MAA is part of Star Network.