Movie channels step out of television sets

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | July 01, 2009
English and world cinema channels in the country are increasingly resorting to other media, apart from television, to increase their viewer base

Movie channels are creating action on and off TV. With several channels in the English and world cinema genre already competing for viewers' attention, the players realise that the game is more than just about showcasing interesting titles. They are creating innovative properties to grab eyeballs at various viewer touch points such as malls, restaurants, clubs and theatres.

Channels such as Pix, UTV World Movies, NDTV Lumiere, Zee Studio and the latest entrant, WB, are all going out to interact with the movie buffs to increase their viewer base and establish a better connect with their audiences.

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Pix, the English movie channel from Multi Screen Media, recently organised a string of activities around the film Slumdog Millionaire, which premiered on the channel on June 27. Activities celebrating the spirit of Mumbai, such as a three day free bus ride with Slumdog Millionaire branding on it, was carried out in Mumbai; promoters, dressed as 'chai walas' (wearing Pix T-shirts reading 'Destined to be Millionaire') served tea in glasses both in and around offices. The Chai Wala activity was carried out in Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai.

For the same film, there was a bus activity done in association with Red FM, which had the RJs (radio jockeys) inviting people to board the bus and informing listeners about the route. The company also planted soothsayers in a few malls, who, after reading the destiny of the shoppers, informed them about the contest running on Pix. There were also branded local trains in Mumbai to support the campaign. All these activities were done to support the on-air contest called 'Are you destined to be a Millionaire?' running on the channel.

Earlier this year, the channel conducted promotional events for its quiz property, Hollywood Pix Your Brain. The quiz, which ran across Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Pune and Hyderabad, tested the Hollywood trivia knowledge amongst the channel's target group (TG). The activation was carried out at malls, multiplexes and colleges and was supported by on-air, radio, digital, outdoor and other branding tie ups.

Though this year the channel did not have any sponsor for the quiz contest, Pix plans to make it a corporate event from next year onwards. Himmat Butalia, marketing head, Pix, says, "A lot of sponsors have shown interest in this property. These are low cost (cost effective as compared to ATL activities) and high impact properties; therefore, it makes sense for a movie channel to carry out this property." For Pix, this kind of on-ground activity is a vital part of its campaign and such activities are usually carried out for three to four months in a year.

Zee Studio has also perked up its on-ground activities to engage the audience with activities such as 'Shut Up and Watch' film club; 'Studio Nites - Evenings of Karaoke'; and 'Studio Nites Movie Song Karaoke Championship'.

The film club, 'Shut Up and Watch' (SAW), screens one movie every month for English film buffs at Oxford Bookstore outlets across Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai. Films such as Paris Je T'aime, Madame Bovary and Che Guevara's classic Motorcycle Diaries have been screened at the book stores.

Sujay Kutty, senior vice-president and business head, Zee Studio, says, "It's an endeavour aimed at taking quality cinema to the genuine movie enthusiasts across the country in the unique setting of a bookstore." According to him, Oxford attracts the right segment of people. The movies screened at Oxford Bookstore outlets (with seating capacity of 40) run to packed houses and the outlets in five metros enables Zee Studio to reach out to about 200 film lovers.

Another effort by the channel, Studio Nites - Evenings of Karaoke, has the diners singing along with the movie soundtracks. Karaoke Nites are conducted at Not Just Jazz by the Bay, Acres Club, Bootleggers and Soul Fry in Mumbai every week. "We reach out to about 80-100 patrons of the restaurants, where we conduct the Karaoke Nites on a weekly basis."

In May, the channel organised Studio Nites Movie Song Karaoke Championship to recognise the karaoke talent in Mumbai. The winner walked away with a cash prize of Rs 25,000 and a chance to represent Mumbai at a national level Karaoke Championship held in Bengaluru.

For another property called Get Shorty, a short film festival, Zee Studio showcased films made by budding filmmakers from amongst its audience base. The channel also has 10 satellite premieres lined up this year, and a few movies from the slot will be picked up for theatrical release at around the same time that they premiere on Zee Studio.

UTV World Movies also has a film club, called World Movies Film Club, which has about 50,000 members. The club organises a host of activities, including screening of movies, film appreciation classes, and 'know more about the director' sessions on a regular basis.

"We want to extend our offerings beyond the realms of regular TV viewing. We now look at bringing a more holistic movie viewing experience to our audience. The key for an English movie channel now lies in bringing a wholesome, 360 degree movie experience to the audience," says Shantonu Aditya, chief executive officer, UTV Entertainment Television.

"We realised early that since people in India were not exposed to world cinema, we needed to build a fan base. Therefore, we followed this approach and went to the places where the likelihood of our TG being present is higher," Aditya adds.

The channel has tied up with Alliance Franšaise, NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts), Mocha film club and other film clubs for the movie screenings. Another preferred on-ground event of the channel is a special screening at colleges and clubs. "In India, its either Hollywood or Bollywood, and we are promoting a new genre. Therefore, at these locations, we get the captive audience that is most likely to watch the channel," informs Aditya. The channel, in the last three months, has organised Russian, French and Iranian film festivals.

The channels are shelling out anywhere between Rs 80,000 and Rs 90,000 for a day's permission in a big mall, and Rs 40,000-50,000 in a smaller shopping complex, to conduct these activities.

A promoter usually charges about Rs 250 per day to wear clothes carrying the branding of the channels.

Since it's an expensive proposition, channels limit these activities to big properties only.

To generate buzz for the regular properties, the channels are focussing on on-ground presence (shelf strips and posters) rather than on-ground activities. "Though on-ground activities do a lot of PR for us - people get to know about the channel and our reach also goes up - but there is no scale to measure the deliverability of such properties," Aditya observes.

For NDTV Lumiere, these activities are integral and important in building the brand's image. Talking about the importance of on-ground activities in establishing a better connect with the audience, and why these activities are preferred, Dhruvank Vaidya, business head, NDTV Lumiere, says, "As a Hindi movie channel will typically do an award ceremony, we do on-ground activities surrounding the films as they bring new audiences to world cinema. Also, it makes world cinema more accessible."

The channel conducts screenings in restaurants once every week. For Delhi, Lumiere has tied up with Lodhi Gardens and Tabula Rassa; in Bengaluru, with Pebble; and in Mumbai, it's Zenzi for World Cinema Sundays. The channel has seen a turnout of more than 500 people at the premiere night of the Cannes Winner Movies Fest. He adds that the channel tries to package the sponsors for both on-ground and on-air sponsorships, as it gives more mileage.

The channels are not only looking at expanding their reach in metros but are also showing interest in smaller cities such as Pune and Ahmedabad. Lumiere recently gave a few of its titles for film festivals being held in cities such as Kolhapur, Solhapur, Nagpur and Ahmedabad, in order to expand its reach in smaller towns.

The recently launched Hollywood centric channel, WB, is also eyeing this space and as part of its marketing campaign, the channel mapped out a few on the spot contests weaved around Hollywood. Besides, an online interactive campaign was launched across Yahoo, MSN, Rediff, Cricinfo, Reuters, Facebook, the Vdopia network, the Admagnet network, Google Search, Fame Cinemas, Bookmyshow and BigFlix, which linked the users to the contest page on