How many television channels can you count amongst your favourites out of the odd-400 in the country? Five? Maybe even ten? And so what if they are your favourites? Choosing television programmes these days is much dependent upon what is “mutually acceptable”; mutually acceptable, because unlike twenty years back, TV viewers today have umpteen choices! If you have ladies in the house (both old and young, married and unmarried), your idiot box would invariably have either the ‘Saas-bahu’ episodes flooding the senses of the Venusians or some curtain call at the end of a Hindi film receiving a breathless wonder from the fairer gender. [Who cares if the script overwhelms none in the room?]. If you have a kid in the house, then you will be stuck to the world of Pogos and Toms and Jerrys. If you have friends over, then forget the channels – it’s the DVD which gets into action with the latest blockbuster!
And then there are the wildlife channels peddling apes and tuskers that wobble about, and then again some spiritual and religious channels; and of course music channels too, for the modern MJs. Did we forget to mention the regional channels for the patriots, news channels for the critics, and sports channels for those who want to know how octopuses predict FIFA World Cup winners! And then, sweetheart, there are the English movie channels. They’re hep, they’re happening, they feature English movies that would make the Oscar roll call on any given day – yet, they’re not what you’d call thundering successes with respect to viewership, or even brand loyalty. Dump a load full of competition and the fact that masses prefer watching staid, rigmarole, Hindi and regional serials more than electrifying movies, and you start realizing why very few viewership rating charts feature English movie channels. But this is not to say that nobody watches English movies. Too many do! And that’s where the war among the English movie channels is right now focused.
In reality, not just English movie channels, but even English entertainment channels (including GECs and movie channels), still have a long road to cover on Indian soil. This segment accounts for an anaemic 5% of the total TV viewership pie in the country. As far as English movie channels are concerned, as per data furnished by TAM Media Research, the average television rating percent for English movie channels is usually between 0.02 and 0.05 (worst being 0.0 and best being 10.0, which is when an interesting India-Pak cricket match is on). So how are these outfits making money? After garnering Rs.220 crores in ad-revenues last year, the 11 English movie channels have recorded a topline of about Rs.300 crores so far this year; expectedly, the two biggest in this genre are Star Movies and HBO with respective market shares of 41% and 29%.
With 11 channels in the offering, the once deprived for choice Indian viewer, is being spoilt for choice. Today, there are 30 premiers every month on the top three English movie channels – Star Movies, HBO and WB. And while Sony Pix and Zee Studio offer bits of everything (featuring even sports programmes and reality shows at regular intervals), UTV World Movies & NDTV Lumiere try and offer the best in international cinema (with feature films in French, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and many other languages). But at the end of the day, one cannot deny the fact that English movie channels are in a niche business; it’s about engaging a couple of lakhs of viewers, not crores. And it’s really the quality of movies that will prevent an HBO viewer to move on to Sony PIX or STAR Movies.
Talking about media planning, for English movie channels, it all depends on the title that is being premiered on a particular day. For example a movie like Dark Knight on HBO would land it with ads worth 20 minutes, but the same will not be true for a repeat movie like Terminator 2. Despite the odds, the earnings are seemingly there to be had – precisely the reason why there are huge bets on this genre, despite English movie channels earning less than a tithe of mainstream Hindi GECs. Imagine, today huge stakes are being laid even on a channel like UTV World Movies, which caters to a niche within a niche – the international cinema. Sameer Ganapathy, Business Head, UTV World Movies, while talking about his strategy says, “UTV World Movies is channel which showcases only international cinema. The demand for such cinema always exists irrespective of which part of the world it is from. Till we entered India, this was only made available through select rental outlets and pirated DVDs. We therefore started this channel to bridge the demand-supply gap and provide viewers with the opportunity to watch international cinema.” But has the Indian audience accepted his intentions? Says Ganapathy, “Our efforts have paid off. The channel has been well received and our growth is 15%, more than that of the genre’s, which is growing at 11%”. Today, UTV World Movies has grabbed 5% of the genre pie.
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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2010.
An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).
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