English movie channels: a case of mistaken identity

By , agencyfaqs! | In Media Publishing
Last updated : January 17, 2006
With little differentiation in content, English movie channels desperately try to create a niche for themselves, but for media planners, there is little difference between a STAR Movies and an HBO

Ask a person

about the last English movie he has watched on television. He will probably name it in a jiffy. But ask him about the channel on which he watched the movie. Chances are that he will start jogging his memory trying to recollect the name of the channel.

Media planners such as Divya Radhakrishnan, vice-president, The Media Edge (TME), says that this is not just an opinion, but a fact proved by research. "Any DAR (Day-After-Record) test will show how viewers recall the movie they saw yesterday - that too only the big titles - but never recall the channel and sometimes not even the time."

The reasons for this are quite obvious. Movie channels are driven by titles, and not by channels. If one considers the two leading channels in this genre - STAR Movies and HBO - both of them have almost an equal number of blockbuster movies in their respective libraries.

Well, then there are channels such as Hallmark, which has tried to create a niche for itself with classical English movies. But it caters to a sub-set of English movie viewers, which forms a miniscule part of the total English movie channels viewership.

The other channel in this genre, ZEE Studio, the English movie channel of the ZEE Network, also tries to compete with the likes of STAR Movies and HBO, but it too hasn't been successful in making a mark, because of its weak distribution. Plus, it doesn't even have a huge library of blockbuster movies unlike its competitors.

So, the basic competition among English movie channels narrows down to STAR Movies and HBO. Together the two enjoy more than 85 per cent share in this genre. According to TAM Media Research the channel share of STAR Movies and HBO in 2005 (C&S, 15+, AB, 6 metros) was 50 per cent and 38.9 per cent, respectively.

STAR Movies and HBO desperately try to discern themselves from the rest by building special properties and new packaging. But even these initiatives have had little impact, as there is too much of me-too-ism in this genre. For instance, if STAR Movies has a property such as 'Friday Night Premieres', HBO has its 'HBO Saturday Nights' or 'HBO Superstar Sunday'. Similarly, both these channels have special movies lined up for important days such as Republic Day, Holi, Mother's Day, or Valentine's Day.

Kajal Malik, regional director, Optimum Media Solutions, says, "These properties do help these channels in increasing appointment viewing as viewers tune in to the channel at a particular time slot, hoping that the there will be a blockbuster movie being aired on the channel. But then again, even the excitement for these properties or time slot is as good as the title."

She cites the example of a general entertainment channel, ZEE TV, which created a property called 'Thursday Premier'. Initially, this property managed to get viewers' attention as well as loyalty, but then ZEE couldn't sustain it because of lack of impressive titles.

So does the viewers' low loyalty for English movie channels cause concern to the media planners?

Not exactly. As Malik of Optimum Media Solutions, says, "There will be only a few advertisers who will chose between the two leading channels - STAR Movies and HBO - in this genre. To reach out to the English speaking viewers, these channels are mostly bought simultaneously."

Even Radhakrishnan of TME, says, "If and when, we need to narrow down on the genre, we select the channels based on its efficiencies."

Media buyers such as Lakshmi Narasimhan, national director, central trading group, Group M, says, "Movie channels are decided on the strength of the titles these channels have. However, at times, certain brands want to reach out to a particular target group. In such cases, we find out which of these channels gets the maximum viewership from this set of viewers."

So how do these channels fight it out to get the maximum share of viewership and the revenue-pie?

Media planners such as Arpita Menon, general manager, Lodestar Media, feels marketing innovations can certainly help the channels. She cites the example: "Every channel has a promo tag. On STAR Movies, these promo tags can actually incorporate a short clip from the brand's TVC, while on HBO this is a static image. Such small things do make a big difference from an advertiser's point of view."

A Bangalore-based media planner suggests, "HBO has built its strengths with popular television soaps such as 'Sex and the City'. Similarly, STAR Movies has gone a step ahead with Hollywood events. So further building on these special programmes could certainly help the channels in creating an identity for themselves."

However, she is also quick to add that these properties and special programmes can only help the channels to a certain extent, but the major difference can only happen through the number of blockbuster and popular titles each one has.

2006 agencyfaqs!

First Published : January 17, 2006
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© 2006 agencyfaqs!