Few things sell better than a nice large dollop of real-life thrill. And this is something that AXN - the action channel of Sony Entertainment Television (SET) - has not just understood and patented, but has also started converting into market success.
And why not? A couple of AXN's current reality-based shows are doing quite well for themselves. According to the latest TAM figures, Who Dares Wins (Mondays, 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm) has seen the channel garnering 20-to-25-per cent of the English viewing audience, while Ripley's Believe It or Not! (Tuesdays, 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm) has English-viewing-audience share hover at an impressive 45-to-50-per cent.
Which is possibly why AXN is launching three new reality-based shows this month. The first is Fear Factor, which premieres on February 06, and will run on Wednesdays, 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm. Scariest Places on Earth (Thursdays) premiers the very next day, also in the 9.00-pm-to-10.00-pm slot.
Fear Factor is based on the idea that fear can be overcome, given effort. So, in each episode, three women and three men must perform life-threatening stunts that call for total coordination of mental and physical skills (like jumping from one running train to another), or sheer raw guts (like being covered with poisonous snakes and getting bitten in the process!). Hosted by comedian and martial arts expert Joe Rogan, Fear Factor, which starts with six people, is based on a process of fear-imposed elimination. The last man - or woman - standing will pocket $50,000.
In a variation, Scariest Places on Earth will deal with the fear of the unknown. Suitably hosted by actress Linda Blair (who played the lead in The Exorcist), Scariest Places is about brave or foolhardy people who must sweat it out in some of the world's scariest locations. For example, in one of the episodes, four students and a university staff member explore, on camera, an allegedly haunted room on a college campus. In fact, in this particular episode, none of the participants lasted the night - the group freaked and fled.
Incidentally, AXN has already started airing a three-part mini-series, The David Blaine trilogy, from February 03, in the 8-pm slot. The show, hosted by the eponymous David Blaine, is actually a magic show - with a fair share of heart-stopping thrills. For instance, in the key episode - Frozen in Time - Blaine is encased in a block of ice for more than 61 hours. "We provide vicarious pleasure - our watchers are those who want to run in a marathon, and those who like to see others run," explains Rohit Bhandari, senior brand manager, AXN.
For the channel, the emphasis on reality shows is in keeping with its larger aim of trying to expand viewership from the late night slot of 10.00 pm-to-12.30-am, where AXN already has a sizable chunk of audience. It might be recalled that in May, last year, AXN had switched its reality and series slots (previously, series started at 9.00 pm, while reality shows were at 8.00 pm). Consolidating the 9.00-pm-to-10.00-pm slot would mean that the channel would have a commanding share of the English TV-viewing audience in the 9.00-pm-to-12.30-am band.
The accent on reality shows is also attempting to broadbase the channel's appeal by addressing men, women and children alike. Typically, AXN's viewer profile is composed of adult males. "What shows like these do is to appeal to the fear, deep inside, that what is happening on screen could happen to you. You really don't know if you want to do this, and this gives you a delicious thrill. That does not happen when you are watching fiction. The question is, will such reality appeal to a very different audience?" asks a senior media planner.
AXN will get to know the reality soon enough. © 2002 agencyfaqs!