English movies have always had a fan base in small-town India. While Hindi movie channels or local theatres have catered to this love for English movies through dubbed versions; English movies channels somehow failed to lure these viewers. That's primarily because though these viewers understand English, the heavily American accented language of English movies is beyond them.
Now, most English movie channels have found a workaround -- subtitles. While Zee Studio adopted this service two years ago, most channels have followed suit, with Pix as the latest adopter.
Sujay Kutty, senior vice-president and business head, Zee Studio, shares, "Since the introduction of subtitles, the response mails and SMSes received from cities such as Lucknow, Ludhiana, Guwahati and Jaipur showed an increase. This proves the growing popularity of English movies in these markets."
Shruti Bajpai, country head, India, HBO also admits that the subtitling initiative has made the channel more popular among the masses, as it makes the viewing experience simpler. According to her, 60 per cent of HBO's viewership base is in the six metros, and the rest comes from smaller towns.
The cost of subtitling a movie is around Rs 10,000 - Rs 20,000, depending on its length and quality of subtitling. While it may not be feasible to subtitle all movies; but spending some extra money to gain audiences during primetime could be a differentiator for the channel, as well as advertisers.
Atrayee Chakraborty, business director, Lintas Media Group, says, "Primarily, we expect to reach our SEC A consumers through English movie channels. However, the fact is that not every SEC A viewer is comfortable with the American accent. Subtitles ensure that these viewers also tune into the channels, which is always welcomed by advertisers."
However, it's not always about the incremental viewership; many channels have adopted this route to enrich the viewing experience even for existing viewers. Jyotsna Viriyala, vice-president, programming, STAR Movies, points out that subtitles help viewers follow the exact dialogues, so that they do not miss the smaller details in the storyline.
Another senior media planner says that subtitles are not considered to be as derogatory as the dubbed version, which sometimes fails to deliver the feel of the movie. In this case, subtitles have an added advantage. End of the day, one must admit that subtitles have helped the English movie genre on television to widen its appeal, both demographically and geographically.