Sony Pix experiments with short format

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | January 24, 2013
The first series to appear on the channel is Transporter, which premieres on January 25.

The English movie genre has shown instability in channel ranking for some time. Also, evidently, the gap between the leader and the second and third rankers has narrowed of late, attributed variedly to DAS (Digital Addressable System), improved performances and availability of better libraries.

To encourage appointment viewing and retain eyeballs, Sony Pix, the English movie channel from the MSM stable, plans to launch a 12-part series, Transporter, on the weekend prime time slot (8 pm). The series has been licensed to the channel for a year with a multiple-runs deal, with provision for an extension. The show will have repeats in the afternoon and other time slots, too.

The series is made by the same crew that worked on the successful 'Transporter' Hollywood action franchise.

Currently, the show is being telecast in Canada and France. This is the first time that Pix will experiment with the shorter format content, while HBO is the only other English movie channel in India that has a TV series.

Saurabh Yagnik

Himmat Butalia

Saurabh Yagnik, business head, Sony PIX, says that the shorter format was chosen to leverage its association with the movie. "The series was selected only because of the association it has to the movie franchise. It enjoys a certain pedigree of the movie and hence it fits into the channel's positioning completely," he explains.

The channel has released a campaign to promote the series. The campaign, Sorry Girls, explains how men prefer to watch Pix during the 8 pm slot on weekends, choosing the television over the fairer gender.

Transport: The Series is also being promoted on social media, mainly on Twitter and Facebook. Himmat Butalia, head, marketing, SET Pix, says, "The campaign works on the principle of reverse psychology, wherein to target men we started a conversation with women. Since the central message is Sorry Girls, boys on fb and Twitter were even more curious to know what the apology was for."Which, of course, was PIX apologising to young women for keeping their boyfriends busy with the channel.

The channel expects a lot of stickiness for the series. Later in the year, PIX will premiere two of the most awaited sequels, MIB and Amazing Spiderman, somewhere around the first quarter.

Moving ahead in 2013, the channel plans to increase the overall marketing spends on the channel and its properties. Differentiation of content and marketing will play a vital role in the performance of the channels, says Yagnik, but refuses to share financial details.

Sources reveal that Pix spent close to 12 per cent of its top line revenue on marketing in 2012, while in the current year (2013), it has earmarked close to 15 per cent of the same for marketing. Also, the channel plans to go digitally aggressive. Even the current campaign, Sorry Girls, has a significant digital presence. The channel also plans to increase the connect between the on-air promos and online conversations.

Typically, channels like Pix have 40:60 ratio of subscription and advertising contribution towards revenue. However, the channel expects this ratio to get inversed in the wake of digitisation. In terms of the change in strategies, Yagnik mentions, "Strategy has to change with time. Digitisation is an important reason to do it. With subscriptions going up and the obstructions related to digitisation going down, more opportunities will definitely open up."

For the record, Pix, launched in 2006, started off with the promise of 'We Tell Stories', as a library-driven channel; its content focused on story-telling expertise. However, with time and a major output arrangement with Sony Pictures in 2010, the channel was repositioned as a destination for Hollywood movies with the tagline, 'Hollywood is Here'.

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