When Englishmen speak Hindi

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | March 03, 2014
With the introduction of a movie block on & Pictures that airs Hollywood movies dubbed in Hindi, afaqs! tries to explore how such movies perform on the viewership front.

When STAR Gold started airing Hollywood movies dubbed in Hindi in 2002, television viewing saw an innovative step. Although kids' channels like Hungama, Pogo, Cartoon Network and Disney, and infotainment channels like Discovery and National Geographic were airing dubbed content by then on smaller scales, it was the first time a large amount of content began to be dubbed for the Hindi movies genre. The move was quickly followed by SET Max with a similar programming block that telecast English movies dubbed in Hindi.

& Pictures

& Pictures contest

Nikhil Rangnekar

In 2008, UTV launched a 24x7 channel called UTV Action which telecast Hollywood action movies dubbed in Hindi. The channel is, however, restricted to the action genre. Recently, & Pictures, the eight month old Hindi movie channel from ZEEL, launched a programming block called 'Hollywood Sundays' for similar movies. It has acquired rights from Sony Pictures to air 40 Hollywood films dubbed in Hindi, promoting these as 'Asli Desi flavour' to be telecast at 12:00 pm on Sundays, starting March 2.

The channel plans to tie up with more Hollywood studios to build an exhaustive movie line-up of Hollywood films. The films will include genres such as action, action-comedy, rom-coms, horror and animated movies. The month of March will have a mix of action and action-comedy which include movies such as Hancock, Karate Kid (1984), The Adventures of Tintin, Resident Evil and Terminator Salvation.

In an official communiqué, Akash Chawla, marketing head, national channels, ZEEL, says, "& Pictures' programming line-up caters to the progressive Indian mind-set rooted in traditions. Sunday afternoons are usually family time spent together watching television, hence it was the ideal time to showcase Hollywood Sundays."

afaqs! spoke to a few planners to understand whether the dubbed genre still has enough potential for the new channel to reap benefits.

The planners unanimously suggest that the Hollywood dubbed genre is one of the better performing genres within cinema. Shekhar Banerjee, senior vice-president and head of Madison Pinnacle, explains, "At the end of the day Hollywood titles are popular, it's just the language barrier that restricts the reach. English channels try to bridge this with subtitles, but when you dub a movie into Hindi, it becomes mass content."

All agree that the advertisers don't bother much about the content, they just see numbers. Nikhil Rangnekar, co-founder, Spatial Access, says, "For & Pictures, the channel has to consider the genres and whatever trends can get them viewership. UTV Action is enough proof of the success of dubbed content."

UTV Action has been in the market for about six years now and has shown stable performance. The licensing cost of airing a Hollywood movie is much less than that of a Bollywood movie. While the telecast right of a small-time Bollywood movie will start at around Rs 5-6 crore, the range for Hollywood movies is about Rs 30-40 lakh. Being in the action genre, the channel has played it safe, since Hollywood movies, for their technological expertise, enjoy considerable traction.

Banerjee adds, "I don't think there's any reason why non-action Hollywood movies should work lesser. At the end of the day, Bollywood too has romantic and comedy genres. Then, there shouldn't be any issues about the Hollywood movies from 'other than action' genre. It is much closer to Bollywood."

Rangnekar seconds this by adding that if there is a market for action, there is no reason why there shouldn't be a market for the other genre of movies. He adds, "Even the kids channels would have shown some of the kids Hollywood movies in Hindi."

In addition to all this, the Sunday afternoon slot is a good choice, say media planners. Banerjee substantiates by citing the example of Hindi GECs. "Sunday afternoon has been quite a potent slot. Even the Hindi GECs have started showing back to back premieres or movies on Sunday afternoons; they have been using the time-slot for some time now."

Advertisers' choices, on the other hand, are largely governed by performance. A different library offering different genres of movies could in fact work for the channel.

Banerjee summarises the analysis, "It works, I suggest. Not that the other channels haven't done it. Every Hindi movie channel has tried this, and I think the success of these bands have been proved by a full-fledged channel like UTV Action."

The channel is promoting the block with a contest on social media to name the movies in Hindi. More contests may also be launched in line with the movie block.

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