Star India acquires ‘Screen’ for Hotstar app3 min read . Updated: 09 Mar 2015, 10:48 PM IST
The deal marks the end of Screen’s print avatar and its transformation into a digital-only product
New Delhi: Star India Pvt. Ltd, a unit of 21st Century Fox, acquired Screen, the weekly broadsheet on the film and entertainment industry owned by the Indian Express Group, for an undisclosed amount in a deal that was announced on Monday. The deal marks the end of Screen’s print avatar and its transformation into a digital-only product.
Screen, with a circulation of nearly 15,000 copies per week, will publish its last print edition this week as Star India takes the entertainment weekly online to be part of its recently launched digital initiative Hotstar.
“With Screen coming to Hotstar we can set the ball rolling for the next phase of greater eyeball consumption in the entertainment genre. We believe Screen is a strong brand, well remembered, and its credibility coupled with the power of Star Network is a large opportunity. The brand will go fully digital in the next few weeks," said Sanjay Gupta, chief operating officer, Star India.
Hotstar, launched on 1 February, is a mobile application that offers more than 35,000 hours of content in seven languages, promising viewers a big library of movies, television shows and even live sports (cricket, football, tennis and kabaddi).
The deal is estimated to be in the range of ₹ 30 crore to ₹ 40 crore, according to a person close to the development who did not wish to be named. Mint could not independently verify this.
BMR Advisors acted as sole financial advisors to the Indian Express Group.
The acquisition means Star now owns the popular Screen Awards.
“Screen is a strong and reputable franchise and gives us access to the entertainment editorial suite and the tinsel world, where news that shapes trends is made by film stars, directors and producers," said Uday Shankar, chief executive, Star India, in a statement. “The acquisition of Screen will allow us to strengthen and expand the content brand online while taking the awards platform to the next level. There are strong synergies and the combination of the quality content and awards franchise with Star’s presence across television and digital platforms is strategic and scalable," he said.
The Screen content on Hotstar will be advertiser supported and will focus on videos, said Gupta. The 15 member team at Screen will continue to be headed by Priyanka Sinha Jha, the current editor of the entertainment weekly and will be integrated with the Star India network.
Last month, Star India acquired Telugu television channel Maa TV in its largest acquisition in India, in a deal estimated to be in excess of ₹ 2,000 crore.
Launched in 1951, Screen is an English-language weekly broadsheet that sponsors the prestigious Screen Awards instituted in 1995 by Indian Express Group chairman and managing director Viveck Goenka.
Commenting on Star’s decision to close down the print edition, Anant Goenka, son of Viveck Goenka and head of digital media at Indian Express said, “They are a giant broadcasting conglomerate and don’t have any other major print assets. The print industry, especially the language press, is doing exceedingly well and growing in both readership and advertising revenue year-on-year. The Express Group has witnessed exponential growth in both traffic and revenue on digital formats, we intend to invest money from the Screen sale to further grow and strengthen our position on digital, and invest in building circulation and readership of Loksatta and of our flagship Indian Express."
Goenka said they sold Screen as its business was well integrated with the television ecosystem. “We believe that award shows in our country are produced essentially for TV. I am very proud of the work we did at Screen; my parents conceptualised the Screen Awards during a family vacation in Goa 21 years ago... Today, let’s face the fact that it’s largely a game that the broadcasters are fighting," he added.
Star India has been closely associated with the Screen Awards for some years, with the ceremony telecast on its Hindi general entertainment channels such as Star Plus and Life OK. In 2013, the awards moved to Colors, the entertainment channel of Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd, only to return to Life OK this January.
Star said that downloads of Hotstar have reached 10 million. Hotstar has 35-40 advertisers across various categories, including Coca Cola, Nissan, Nestle and Airtel, as well as e-commerce companies like Snapdeal and Flipkart.
Recently, the broadcaster streamed the 87th Academy Awards through its mobile application, garnering video views in excess of 2.5 million to date.
“The small screen is here and consumption and time spent on this screen will only rise. Anyone who wants to speak to the young, urban audience is on digital," said Gupta.