"The name of the game is packaging - to plan your channel in such a manner that you are able to come up with a fresh offering every month," says Shruti Bajpai, director, marketing (India), HBO Asia. The 24-hour English movie channel has geared up for the summer with a line up of films that reinforces the fact that it pays to be aligned to the top four Hollywood studios - including Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia/TriStar), Universal and Warner Brothers (including New Line Cinema).
Movies to premiere on the channel include blockbusters such as Girl, Interrupted, starring Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Taylor of Panama, Patriot, Enemy At the Gates, Almost Famous starring Kate Hudson, Lucky Numbers with John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow, Deep Blue Sea, Sixth Day starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and The Mothman Prophecies with Richard Gere, which was internationally released in 2002 and deals with the paranormal. "We have a strong blockbuster line-up," asserts Bajpai.
Apart from big-ticket movies, which unfold every Saturday from the first week of April to the last week of June, HBO has affixed themes to every month through summer. So April will be dedicated to movies on pets under the title 'Cute and Cuddly'. A second theme tilted 'Double Trouble' will also do the rounds in April featuring action movies with two leading stars pitted against each other such as Tango & Cash featuring Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell and Showdown in Little Tokyo starring Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, and Dolph Lundgren, heavyweight karate champion, among others.
May will be devoted to the 'Summer Action Marathon' where thirty action movies will feature through the month from Monday to Thursday while a parallel theme 'Kings of Kung Fu' will also premiere on the channel at the same time.
The month of June will be dedicated to paranormal experiences under the theme 'Unseen'. "We were the ones to have pioneered the concept of themes," states Bajpai. Despite the assertion what is important to note is the fact that a sizeable number of films to be screened fall within the genre of action-adventure - be it the hardcore Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger kind of action-adventure or Bruce Lee's martial arts - underscoring a key point that the Indian movie buff would any day settle for a film packed with visual action than those belonging to any other genre.
A point that Rohit Bhandari, assistant vice-president - marketing and sales, SET India, who is also in charge of AXN's business interests in the country, tends to agree on. "Indian audiences still want to watch visual action," he states. Bajpai adds, "Blockbusters do spike viewership. If you are looking at ratings, then these films can get you the much-needed TVR."
Bajpai's emphasis on "blockbusters" as opposed to "action-adventure flicks" can be traced to the fact that two out of the Top 3 movies overall in the first quarter of 2003 are HBO movies - the first being action film Enter The Dragon with a TVR of 1.9 and the second being science fiction movie Hollow Man with Kevin Spacey in the lead, which garnered a TVR of 1.5 (Source: TAM; T.A.: individuals between 15 and 44 years in C&S homes across the Top 6 cities in the socio-economic class of A and B). The third top movie in the last quarter is Rambo III, an action film telecast on STAR Movies that garnered a TVR of 1.2. Clearly, the ratio of action-adventure to science fiction is 2:1.
Again, Rambo III along with Terminator II - Judgment Day featured in the Top 10 English movies for 2002 at Nos 7 and 5 respectively. STAR India also plans to telecast the Hindi version of Rambo II and III as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger's Red Heat on STAR Plus this month.
There is no denying that channel managers are banking heavily on the genre of action-adventure to draw audiences. For the year 2002, such movies have clearly been the top TVR grossers - with Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park - The Lost World, and The Mummy among the Top 3 in the favoured list of Top 10 movies last year.
Bajpai summerises the crux of HBO's strategy in the following manner, "Indian audiences basically love movies - English or otherwise. The reason I say this is because some movies are so expressive that you don't have to rely on the language. Therefore, I think, the Indian audience would lap up a blockbuster - an action blockbuster that will appeal to a wider audience such as the entire family." © 2003 agencyfaqs!