The English general entertainment channel from the MSM stable, AXN is all set to regain its old glory through the three pillars of programming, namely TV series, reality shows and movies. With the premier of The Hobbit, which was simulcast on Pix, the channel has planned scores of shows and TV series to strengthen the line up.
The channel has lined up shows starting September 23 and the first one to launch will be End of the World (EOW), which has six four-hour-long series. Between Monday-Thursday, each week will telecast one series. It will also air Voice 5, a singing talent hunt show which will be launched within three days of its US launch. Voice is a weekend property.
This kind of content will take the channel to the next level, states Punjabi. From October 11, Supernaturals (being launched in India within two days of its US launch) will be launched, while Top Gear and The Hero will be launched on October, 18. The Hero, hosted by the Hollywood actor Dwayne Johnson, is a show which has elements similar to Amazing Race and Fear Factor.
Chosen will be telecast on the slot of EOW, after EOW concludes on the channel. Apart from this, Sherlock Holmes and So You Think You Can Dance will be launched during Diwali.
Orphan Black is another thriller about human cloning with a female protagonist, which will appear on the channel around the same time.
Currently, the (Monday to Thursday) programming of AXN offers reality (8 pm), lighter drama (9pm) and heavy drama (10pm). The channel airs shows that run close to the US airings on Fridays, and movies and big reality shows on weekends. Under the programming block 'Nine weekends to die for', it airs hit movies such as Transformers, God Father and Mission Impossible at 9 pm on weekends.
Punjabi explains, "FPC (fixed point chart) needs stability. Consumers won't mature overnight. We have experimented with different genres and types of shows. Our learnings are in place and we are applying those. If need be, we can always move to weeklies but the question is how much risk can you take and whether the audience is evolved. Almost all the shows are one hour shows, from the Indian FPC perspective, you lose two slots."
He notes that the genre size is also very small. Though the viewership of the genre has grown by about 20-25 per cent annually for the past two-three years, in the immediate past 10-12 weeks, there's a de-growth of the genre and the data is erratic.
The channel is looking at content that has high chances of building into a successful franchise or something that already enjoys a certain fan base. Viewers are engaging with the English GECs now and they need more content, he adds.
The channel has roped in several sponsors for the new series. The Hero has taken aboard Renault as the presenting sponsor, while Nokia Lumia is the powered by sponsor for the reality show. NCIS LA 4 will be presented by Tata Safari Storme, along with Canon as the powered by sponsor. Apart from these two, the associate sponsor for NCIS LA4 is Axis Bank.
Meanwhile, End Of the World is presented by Micromax and the associate sponsor for the series is Titan Edge. Voice has got two associate sponsors; namely Bose and Levis.
In terms of marketing, AXN will use The Hobbit's telecast extensively. Apart from television, the channel is highly dependent on activations. It has already employed bus backs for the EOW series. "What's really worked for us is activations (interaction), YouTube, social media, print (for some strange reason), bus backs (gets us tremendous traction)," Punjabi says. He adds that AXN prefers a 40-day campaign since it believes that it takes time for people to consume outdoor. Radio doesn't work for the channel for some reason, he adds.
Interestingly, the channel had recently used airline boarding passes to promote its show Crossing Lines. Punjabi explains this was because the show talked about borders and crossing them. "Boarding passes made sense for that show. We have experimented with promotions too. We have done sporadic things and some have worked while some others haven't."
The channel has done things both, tactical and disruptive. Punajbi smiles, "We don't have a luxury of being a spender in marketing. We had been spending 6-7 per cent, this year it's 10-15 per cent." Largely, this increase in spends is because of a lot of acquisitions.
Next in line are the following seasons of Hannibal and Live Another Day (next season of 24).