Prajjal Saha

HBO, STAR Movies share the honours in English movie genre

In spite of the alternate claims of supremacy by the two channels, media planners are only interested in the new movie titles and the package offered

They mostly behave like squabbling school children all 'round the year – each claiming their superiority over the other. The argument is actually quite senseless, considering their global parentage. But who is to explain this to the quarrelsome twosome – HBO and STAR Movies?

Here's hoping that a few statistics and observations by senior media planners will help do the needful and cool the frayed nerves of the channel bosses.

First the statistics. TAM reports (C&S, 15+, SEC AB, 5 Metros, year 2004) indicate both STAR Movies and HBO managed an identical market share of 34 per cent each among the English movies channels.

What's to be noted is HBO's claims of supremacy was on the basis of SEC ABC viewers, while STAR Movies staked its claim on statistics from a 4+ viewer-base. But media planners categorically told agencyfaqs! that they were only interested in the viewer base of C&S, 15+, SEC AB. Hence, the statistics offered by HBO and STAR Movies were ignored.

For 2005 and at least during the first 12 weeks, STAR Movies is doing slightly better vis-a-vis HBO. TAM reports (C&S, 15+, SEC AB, 5 Metros, first 12 weeks of 2005) indicate that while STAR Movies has a channel share of 33 per cent, HBO's share has slipped to 29 per cent.

It's a different matter that both ZEE Studio and AXN have gained grounds in this period at the expense of STAR Movies and HBO; while ZEE Studio's share went up to 13 per cent (from 10 per cent in 2004), AXN's share is 25 per cent (from 21 per cent last year).

Now, the observations. Kajal Malik, regional director, Optimum Media Solutions, says, “The two channels, STAR Movies and HBO, are at par – both in terms of viewership, penetration or even revenues to a certain extent. The number one position in the English movie genre keep on changing week on week. ”

Another media planner says, “Even viewer interest is on the titles and in fact, there is no loyalty towards any particular channel.”

So it's the titles, which act as a big differentiator between these two channels. Put simply, the bigger the attraction of the title, the movie channel will garner more viewership and thus, a higher revenue.

But even in terms of titles, these channels are at par. Out of the top 10 performing titles of 2004, five belong to HBO, and the rest to STAR Movies. But if the search is narrowed down to top five movies, HBO has an edge. It had the top four titles in 2004 – 'Spider-Man', 'The Mummy Returns', 'The Mummy' and 'Stuart Little 2', while STAR Movies had a lone entry with 'The Tuxedo'.

In 2005, however, just like the overall trend this year, STAR Movies has edged past HBO. Among the top five English movies, STAR Movies had three, while HBO came up with two. 'Die Another Day' on STAR Movies topped the list, followed by 'Hulk' and the 'The Scorpion King' on HBO. The last two positions were filled in by 'Max Keeble's Big Move' and 'Johnny English' (both on STAR Movies)

The channels, it seems, are very competitive when it comes to promoting a new title. A Bangalore-based media planner says, “If STAR Movies promotes its forthcoming blockbuster titles across its network, HBO, being a single channel, promotes it very aggressively through print and radio.”

Despite the hoopla created by the channels and a slightly better show by STAR Movies, media planners continue to consider the channels at par.

Hiren Pandit, general manager, MindShare, Mumbai, says, “In case of choosing between the movie channels, we look at the forthcoming titles for a period of three months. In any case, English movie channels are never a part of the core media plan. They are always add-ons.”

Malik of OMS adds, “Apart from titles, the other issue which inspires our decision is the package offered by the channel.” And even in this case, as media planners say, the two channels are in close competition to lure advertisers with attractive deals.

“If there is a mass among niche channels, it is the English movie channels. So English movie channels certainly come as a priority in this genre,” Malik concludes. © 2005 agencyfaqs!