"Every year we plan to launch new channels," said M K Anand, CEO, Times Network. And, when he said so, he certainly had a plan to turn that saying true. After launching Magic Bricks Now (a real-estate-based business news channel) and MN+ (the English movies channel) last year, the Network is now set to launch the third channel Movies Now 2, in the English Movies space.
'Hollywood's Wildchild' is what the Network defines the channel as. It will be available initially in SD, and later, in HD. Times Network's (currently, the leader in the English Movie genre with Movies Now) senior vice-president, English Cluster, Vivek Srivastava, is upbeat about the new offering.
The size of the English Movie genre is estimated to be around Rs 700 crore. "Star is the leader in the market and that's because of the legacy it carries. In terms of ad rates, Star is followed by Movies Now. All other networks charge similar rates as Movies Now. The ad rate for a 10-second slot during a premier in Star would cost between Rs 1,20,000-1,50,000. Movies Now would be Rs 70,000-1,00,000," says a media planner on the condition of anonymity.
Srivastava believes that with the content that the English channels offer, the size of the market should swell to at least Rs 2,500 crore. "The next few years will be interesting for the genre. The English-speaking population is increasing in the country, and so is the viewership. Look at the Hollywood box office collection. Films such as Jungle Book did business worth over Rs 180 crore. If we (the industry) pitch more aggressively I see us getting way more for the 10-second slot than what we are raking in at this stage," says Srivastava.
Movies Now 2 launches with four programming properties: 'Moviegasam', Monday-Friday, 9 pm, 'Swagnight', Monday-Friday, 11 pm, '#baelove', Saturday, 7pm, and 'Twisted', Saturday, 11 pm. The channel is launching with a list of 300 titles in its catalogue while the Network is in possession of over 1,200 titles. Times Network has also inked a long-term first output deal with MGM studios, which will arm it with six-seven premiers every year.
"We follow a rule of no overlap in a month, which means a movie that is shown on Movies Now 2 will not be shown on any other Times Network channel the same month," asserts Srivastava.
Festivals play a key role for English Movie channels, both for viewership, as well as revenue since sponsors come and associate for festivals. "Festivals are key viewership drivers for English Movie channels; we need to understand that English Movies on television is a library-viewing affair. So, festivals get promoted aggressively, and that's when one says, "Oh wow, this movie is coming on TV, I need to watch it", and, that's the biggest role festivals play. It is also an avenue for revenue," adds Srivastava.
Sony Pictures Networks also plans to launch a movie channel LaPlex, and is waiting for regulatory approvals.
So, is the space getting over cluttered?
"No," says Srivastava. "The more the number of channels, the more is the marketing for the content. This is a boon for the genre. No launch eats into a part of the existing ones. In fact, it adds to the lot. The number of advertisers, too, is increasing, and hence, I believe there is still room for plenty in the genre," Srivastava opines.
The content acquisition cost has gone up by at least 40-50 per cent in the last three years, and continues to grow further. But, the market size is growing too. "It was about Rs 500 crore three years ago, and is now over Rs 700 crore. This shows that there is no stagnation in the genre," he says.
Times Network will promote the channel through all mediums, with special emphasis on digital as the audience it targets is available on digital. Famous Innovations is the creative agency involved in the creative execution. All cities with a population of over a million will be the target of the marketing campaign.