May the best Hollywood flick win

By , agencyfaqs! | In Media Publishing | February 24, 2006
Come April, English movie channel SET Pix is all set to give HBO and STAR Movies some company. Media planners are of the opinion that it all boils down to titles, where the channel with the best line-up will take away the cake

This April Fool's Day

will see the entry of a new English movie channel on television. And that's no prank. From April 1, 2006, Sony Pictures Entertainment, in a content partnership with MGM, will launch SET Pix, the English movie channel that was in the pipeline following the buy-out of MGM by Sony Corp in 2004.

The channel will be based on the positioning, 'Great stories for movie lovers'. In terms of programming, it will have 90 per cent movie titles, and the rest will be original programming, featuring shows on filmmaking and behind-the-scenes drama. SET Pix will be distributed by One Alliance.

The launch of SET Pix was announced by Hollywood actor Will Smith. The channel will have Sunder Aaron as its business head. Aaron was earlier vice-president, international networks, Sony Pictures Television International. Meanwhile, Gitanjali Murari, creative director, Sony Entertainment Television (SET), has been made head, programming, SET Pix.

"SET Pix will be a premium channel catering to a target group below the age of 44, SEC AB in metros, including the six metros. We hope to showcase genuine stories that have been well told. And the stories behind those stories!" says Aaron, referring to the original content.

So, how will the launch of SET Pix affect HBO and STAR Movies, which have been ruling the English movie genre? Media planners are of the opinion that it will boil down to which channel has the better titles. agencyfaqs! spoke to a few media planners who threw light on what drives this genre.

Manish Porwal, executive director, India (West), Starcom, says, "A Hindi movie channel gets certain minimum assured TVRs on each time slot, irrespective of whether it is playing a good title or not. This is because the Hindi movie channel has a wider viewership base in comparison to the English movie channels. The latter's viewers are far more discerning and fewer in number."

He also points out that these channels are also affected by the selection of an appropriate time-band where various genres of English movies are showcased to the viewer. "This is because the viewers who patronise these channels have busier schedules, and go in for appointment viewing of the kind of movies that they want to watch at a given time," he explains. "All in all, the success of English movie channels is largely dependent on titles, and the time of the day when they are shown."

Arpita Menon, general manager, Lodestar, says that this genre faces an advantage over other genres such as the general entertainment channels (GECs) "While the GECs are faced with the mammoth task of getting people to sample their shows and getting them hooked to those, the scenario is quite different in the case of English movie channels. Here, the trial will automatically happen, provided the channel showcases good titles over a period of time," she says.

She adds that since a movie has been well marketed even before its release, it has already built a reputation around it, which makes viewers want to catch it on television.

"In a way, English movie channels don't have to convince viewers to sit in the car; their job boils down to making them drive it," she says.

CVL Srinivas, managing director, Maxus, Asia Pacific, feels that the challenge for SET Pix will lie in two areas: channel availability, and channel placement. "SET Pix will have to ensure channel availability through cable operators as several new channels that have been launched in the past few months are struggling in this department," he says.

The second task, according to him, is to ensure a good channel placement. "Will the channel be available in the prime band, when the viewer tunes in the channel? Or will it be in the low frequency band? All this will matter tremendously," he states.

However, Hiren Pandit, MindShare, is quite confident of SET Pix's distribution. He says, "SET Pix needn't worry, given its back-up of the One Alliance network. I think what really will decide its fate at the end of the day is content."

According to Pandit, SET Pix should focus on action titles and new titles. "Blockbuster action titles always go down well with movie lovers. A 'Rambo' or a 'James Bond' flick will get the channel good TVRs."

For the record, SET Pix has a collection of titles including 'My Best Friend's Wedding', 'Kramer vs Kramer', 'Jerry Maguire' and 'West Side Story'.

However, Pandit is sceptical about titles such as 'Kramer vs Kramer', terming them as 'old and gone'.

On SET Pix's original programming initiative, Porwal of Starcom remarks, "This is a differentiating step adopted by a new channel entering the market. For instance, Janmat entered the scene when there were around eight Hindi news channels already present. So, it positioned itself as a 'views' channel, in order to stand out from the rest."

Pandit of MindShare concludes that while original programming is an interesting step, it cannot be a driver for the channel. "The main driver is still the title. Making original programming the driver behind the channel is like serving an appetizer in place of the main course!" he quips.

2006 agencyfaqs!

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