HBO, the 24-hour English movie channel, entered India last March - but one year later, Mr James P Marturano, executive vice-president, HBO Asia, still refuses to take India for granted. In an exclusive interview he talks about the future.
He said that he was extremely happy with the response from the Indian audience. We've also done well in distributing the channel. In just one year, 10 million cable and satellite homes are receiving the channel in India. Now with DTH coming in, we are exploring another distribution avenue.
On being asked about any change in programming strategy, he said that as the four largest Hollywood studios-Columbia Tristar, Paramount, Universaland Warner Brothers-have equal stakes in HBO Asia, we get quality movies exclusively for the Indian audience. So, on the programming front, we have given to the audience what they wanted: quality films. The March line-up has25 Oscar movies! But yes, we're looking at offering a mix of movies, serials, concerts and documentaries on the channel. The four concerts that we're going to show from April this year include those of Bon Jovi, Britney Spears, Robin Williams and Mid Jo Black. Movies, will, however, continue to be the main thrust of the channel.
According to Mr James P Marturano, the Indian market is huge. That makes it a bit complicated. Then there's a very involved cable industry which makes the market very interesting. Then there are so many channels offering a lot of choice to the consumers. On the whole, India is very competitive.
Talking on how to deal with competition he said the channel will continue to do what we do best. At HBO,we live and breathe movies. We're very focussed about it.
In revenue terms, the channel is targeting a respectable growth rate in India. It’s a long-term proposition. That is, we may take anything from five to 10 years to do great business in India.
On being asked what the channel is looking for he added, there are three mandates that we are looking at. First, we want to increase distribution of our channel throughout India. From metros, we aim to go to the interiors of the country. Second, we want to drive the ratings of our channel through fresh programming and greater advertising revenues. And third, we want to continue with the brand awareness campaigns for HBO.
Talking about the prospects in India he said that it’s going to be a tough one. Though we are bullish, India is too big a country. LikeChina, even India was a difficult country to start with. But now, India hasopened up. Although India offers opportunities, it's also very tough here.