English TV channels try out new strategies to lure viewers

By , agencyfaqs! | In | June 14, 2004
English entertainment channels, be it movies or general entertainment, are working hard to woo audiences, who otherwise tune into allied genres

The new buffet at the English channels promises to be a splendid one. Cutting across genre, language barrier, and also age-groups, English television channels are laying out a sumptuous spread in a desperate attempt to attract the traditional Hindi-channel-surfing-audience.

ZEE English, for example, has decided to move away from comedy and drama, its original positioning plank, and dabble in action programming instead. The rationale, according to Abhijit Saxena, business head, ZEE English and MGM, is to have more visual-based programming as opposed to verbal or dialogue-based shows.

"English is the second language of the country and a number of people like watching international shows. However, our observation is that many of them prefer a visual treat as opposed to a show, which is dialogue-based. When you watch Friends, for instance, you have to catch each and every word to understand the joke, as opposed to Witchblade (an action-led show launched on the channel recently), which is all about action drama."

ZEE English has plans to change its programming schedule to include a fair bit of visual and variety shows over the next few months. Animated series Tin Tin, for example, will premiere on June 17 in the 8.30 pm slot.

Sister channel ZEE MGM, meanwhile, is keen on acquiring movies from studios other than Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, its existing partner. The rationale, again, is to look at audiences beyond its traditional set of viewers, and quite naturally, the channel is leaving no stone unturned to achieve this objective. On the cards is a new line-up of movies, though Saxena declines to divulge the names. "ZEE MGM has always been a destination for quality cinema, and this strategy will continue with the fresh line-up as well," he says.

Strange as it may sound, English channels beaming Hindi programmes is another strategy of getting more viewereship.

HBO's decision to telecast the Mummy trilogy (which is, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King) in Hindi was an initiative which paid off handsomely. The first two films in the trilogy were rated as the best properties across English entertainment channels, says Shruti Bajpai, country manager (India), HBO, South Asia.

"The Scorpion King was the second-best property across English entertainment channels in the week of telecast," she adds.

Bajpai says, receptiveness to innovative programming strategies among audiences has increased. "The quality of English film entertainment has gone up, and this has resulted in a greater affinity for English movie channels," she adds.

Even action-adventure channel, AXN has launched a Hindi feed. Though restricted to reality shows such as Ripley's Believe it or Not, and action movies, it marked a break from its earlier stance of "only" English programming. The channel, says Rohit Bhandari, assistant vice-president, marketing and sales, SET India, (the company promoting AXN ) has a unique brand equity, and the 'going-Hindi' approach was a one-off experiment to increase sampling of its programmes. "We will be dubbing English movies in Hindi, when English movies, as a genre, have a sufficient mass appeal," he says.

One channel, which is trying to attract new audience a little differently, is STAR World. The channel, through India's Child Genius, its driver show telecast every Sunday at 9.00 pm, is attempting to target the child, and through her -- the entire family, rather than merely go after upscale male audiences.

Indeed, an English entertainment channel launching a property revolving around children is novel enough, considering that programming on these channels is generally targeted at grown-ups.

As Deepak Segal, senior vice-president, content and communication, STAR India, in an earlier interview with agencyfaqs! pointed out, "The strategy behind the show is to add variety to the existing programming mix and strengthen family viewership."

The strategies may differ, but every English entertainment channel is looking at increasing its individual market share.

English entertainment channels, as a category, are not doing particularly well. They may have traditionally enjoyed a small but loyal band of viewers, but the numbers barely add up to 2 per cent of the total viewership. In fact, for two consecutive years - 2002 and 2003 - the viewership percentage has remained stagnated at 2 per cent. Hindi entertainment channels, in comparison, stood at 36 per cent in 2003, and 46.5 per cent in 2002 (source: TAM Media Research).

For English entertainment channel head honchos, the huge disparity in numbers between Hindi and English programming must have been difficult to stomach. This probably explains why English channels are making these recent overtures to win new audience. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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