English movie channels warm-up for a fresh battle!

There are Trojans, Spartans and sometimes George of the Jungle tickles your funny bones, this mix of emotions, quality film-making and a gallore of characters from nowhere, visit us on our 21 inch frame everyday. The world of movies and movies of the world is a 'remote' button away, they all are played up on the English movie channels today. From being identified by two or three major players in the space initially to slowly having increased number of players and more competition, the English movie channel space is slowly evolving.

Recently some of the channels in this space got bigger with newer content which enabled them to attract eyeballs and advertisers to be associated with them. The rich content was backed by promotions, as the competition geared on the channels started promoting the films with more aggression and vigour.

As newer and well-known movies started being telecast and promoted across media and through engaging camapigns, the competition started getting warmed up as a new player from the Times Television Network's stable set the space abuzz. Movies Now hit the Indian television sets on the 19th of December 2010. With the new player's entry and the already growing content and promotional war across the space it will be interesting to gauge the thoughts of the leaders in the space and the media.

So Adgully caught up with industry notables to find out about the growing competition in the English movie channel space.

Talking about the competiton, Saurabh Yagnik, GM, English Channels, STAR India, says, "The competition has increased and some channels are also getting aggressive in terms of promotional activities. However, Star Movies has been the leader in this space for over 63 weeks now. We have consistenly maintained our leadership position."

Speaking about the importane of marketing and promotional activities in the space, Kunal Mukherjee, Associate Vice President Marketing, UTV, says, "Earlier there were two players but now there are multiple players all competing on a level, with content playing an important factor in this competition. What has created a difference between tier 1 and tier 2 channels is the reach, which is a function of distribution. This leaves product differentiation in the hands of marketing. Marketing and promotional activities will continue to drive brands in this space."

Being the latest entry into the space and sharing insight, Ajay Trigunayat, Channel Head, Movies Now, says, "Riding on a very robust Indian cable and satellite growth: the English movies category has grown from strength to strength adding 12 eyeballs by the time you blink your eyes. As of now, more than 40 millionn viewers watch English Movie Channels week on week with the highest TSV (time spent per viewer) of 41 minutes ' by far twice as high compared to other English C&S TV. Certainly, the English Movies Channel viewers have the highest purchasing power and propensity to spend. The seven English movie channels generate a total revenue of Rs 550 crores per annum including subscription revenue and advertising revenue."

"There will be a lot of action and counter action in content innovation, scheduling innovation and marketing innovation across EMCs in 2011," Trigunayat adds.

Krishna Desai, Director Programming, South Asia, Turner International India Pvt. Ltd., says, "The Indian TV audience is constantly evolving and increasingly demanding quality entertainment, having developed a good appetite for global content. Importantly, the English entertainment genre works more on the perception and aspiration value than ratings and that remains consistent. The content is of utmost priority. Channels have now revamped their look to cater to their viewers and the English movie space is getting more aggressive with the entry of new players. As one of the oldest and established broadcasting companies of India, Turner (operates some of the best known and leading channels in the country) is adept at holding its own in the dynamic media and entertainment space."

So how have the advertisers responded to ever gowing buzz?

Shruti Bajpai, Country Manager, South Asia, HBO Asia, says, "In this genre, the advertisers like to associate with the channel that can get them quality audiences. The majority of the shares lie with two top channels. In fact, 2010 has been a great year for HBO with more than 350 advertisers on board and a healthy growth in revenue through innovative brand integrations."

Yagnik points out that the advertisers are sitting up and taking notice from the amount of noise that surrounds the space right now. Echoing similar views, Trigunayat, says, "The advertisers are very excited, for them it's a welcome change that breaks the mould and provides a new incredible platform for focusing on the urban upscale audiences."

The movie channels today are also looking at improving their content, so that it gives them an edge over the competition. The channels brand days and time bands according to a genre. So when asked which genre of movie gets better viewership, Mukherjee says, "Action is the best movie genre and it works across channels, across genres and across languages. This is a core reason why UTV Action exists and is so successful with audiences. Further action gets an advertiser the elusive male audience which otherwise is a challenge and difficult to target beyond India cricket matches."

Acknowledging the fact that original programming combined with movies can also helps in getting more audiences across categories, Bajapi adds, "In India, nothing works better than popular action. Comedy, suspense and horror are some of the other genres that do well. Recently, drama has fetched better viewer response than previous years, which suggests that the Indian viewer is evolving in terms of his taste and is experimenting more.We have also received overwhelming viewer response our original programming time to time. Starting from "Sex And The City' in 2004 to "Entourage' and "True Blood' and this year "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency',HBO Original productions have a steady fan following and have rated among the top shows across English movie channels."

Yagnik and Trigunayat both also assert that action as a gnere works best for the English movie fans in India. However Desai adds that, "It will be too much of a generalisation to say that one particular genre works better than the rest. The key here is the experience that a channel offers to the young, sophisticated urban Indian who has a tremendous appetite to know more and get entertained. It is a mix of storyline, star cast, drama, action, familiarity and recency of the movie that go in to grab eyeballs."

Given the growing content and competition, the other 'c' that remains to be looked at is client. Talking about the growing competition, Ashish Bhasin, Chairman India & CEO South East Asia, Aegis Media India Pvt. Ltd., says, "English movie channels have always been niche in character, and it works well when the client has to reach niche audiences. With new players coming in, it might lead to better content coming in and which will be a good thing for the viewers. However, the only players with long time sustainability and good content will continue to be leaders in this space."

The TAM data for the last four weeks has placed Star Movies at the top of the charts of channel share, followed by HBO. However it will be interesting to see how the visibility of a new name on the TAM table changes things for the players in the space. | By Prabha Hegde [prabha(at)adgully.com]

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