At B4U, differentiation is the key

By , agencyfaqs! | In | December 30, 2002
To differentiate itself from the big boys, B4U Movies is taking a '360 degree view of Bollywood'

As a stand-alone, digital, Hindi movie channel, which went pay recently, B4U Movies may not have that deep a penetration among C&S households compared to rivals, ZEE Cinema, MAX or STAR Gold. But the channel is undeterred, choosing to maximise appeal with a wider experience of Bollywood, an attribute the channel brass has been working at since its launch in India in October 2001. (The network shows a strong presence in the UK and the US, apart from having broadcast operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa).

"We offer everything that one would want to know about Bollywood," claims Rajnish Lall, chief marketing officer, B4U Television Network. The result is a mix of movies and Bollywood-based programming that aims to satiate the need of the quintessential movie lover, who, besides clamouring for his daily fix, is eager to know what's happening behind the scenes.

Programming time therefore is divided into two parts with around 18 hours (inclusive of commercial time) devoted to movie telecasts, and six hours (inclusive of two repeats of two-hour duration each) allotted to Bollywood-based programming. In other words, viewers can watch five movies a day on B4U, apart from a two-hour evening band dedicated to Bollywood-based programmes.

This non-movie band, which stretches from 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm every evening, has half-hour programmes interspersed with shorter vignettes (5-minute capsules) touching upon the current happenings in Bollywood as well as down south, fashion and style tips from stars, developments at various film studios, capsules on the life of a cine star, and a trip-down-memory-lane-sort of block recounting the making of a famous song from a mainstream movie. "Our programming is fresh, "claims Lall. "We report almost all developments within three days of happening, which is not the case with other movie channels," he adds.

As far as movies go, B4U draws from its library of approximately 3,000 Hindi film titles - the largest, according to Lall. "We do not get into the race for a K3G (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham) kind of a blockbuster because the cost of acquisition is not on par with revenue generation," he claims. Hence movies in its library are a fair mix of recent and old flicks. The network has also entered into a joint venture with iDream Production, making both parties co-producers on any project, at the same time giving the channel the right to telecast movies from the production house.

Courtesy this alliance, feature film 16 December starring models Milind Soman, Aditi Gowitrikar and Dipannita Sharma was telecast on the same day this month. Debutante director Revathi's Mitr - My Friend will premiere in January next year whereas blockbuster Agnivarsha featuring Raveena Tandon, Jackie Shroff and Nagarjuna, will be telecast in February. The line-up also includes international iDream films such as Bend It Like Beckham and Bollywood Hollywood, which would be telecast next year.

If getting a grip on content has been crucial for the network, presentation hasn't been ignored either. In fact, the channel brass was recently awarded the prestigious Promax trophy (awards for promotion and marketing professionals working in the electronic media) for the best channel identity; in this case, for the two identities tilted 'The Church' and 'Kathakali'. "Our identities keep going through a churn," asserts Lall. "The popular ones may remain for a while, but the ones not so popular could be replaced with another id, keeping in mind the positioning of the channel."

Lall claims the channel's subscriber base of around 11.5 million households has remained unaltered despite going pay in August 2002. "We went pay in a different manner," he reiterates. "Cable operators in important regions have been encouraged to become our dealers, and all we demand is a minimum guarantee that has been mutually agreed upon." This, he claims, has ensured that visibility for B4U Movies has remained constant apart from providing an alternative source of revenue for the channel. Its key markets include the north and the west, with some amount of penetration in the east and in the southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Despite his claims, a quick look at TAM figures will highlight how B4U Movies has much ground to cover in the wake of increased competition. Channel shares for ZEE Cinema, MAX and the revamped STAR Gold for the period of November 17 to December 14, 2002 stand at an average of 3.6 per cent, 2.4 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively. Whereas the weekly average for B4U Movies is a small 0.55 per cent. Even the Hinduja Group-promoted cable movie channel, CVO has a higher weekly average of 1.1 per cent.

In terms of reach too, B4U Movies is last on the list. In the week December 8-14, ZEE Cinema had 55 per cent reach, MAX 44.1 per cent, STAR Gold 42.7 per cent and CVO 17.7 per cent. B4U Movies was at 15.7 per cent (source: TAM Media Research).

Lall though has a different take on the subject. "Being part of a bouquet or network doesn't always guarantee higher viewership. The individual merit of the channel also counts, and we will continue addressing that very need, namely good content coupled with a slick, contemporary presentation, which should ensure better reach." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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