The much spoken-about Animax has finally hit the Indian television. The channel was initially considered to be a channel for kids’ entertainment for its anime content, but now, Animax officials are calling it a channel for all age groups. “We are a general entertainment channel,” says Todd Miller, Sony Pictures networks channels in Asia – AXN and Animax. “It will compete with STAR Plus,” adds Kunal Dasgupta, CEO, SET India.
While Animax was launched in Japan six years ago, the drive to expand the channel in Asia began only in January 2004. Following this, dedicated services were launched in Hong Kong, Taiwan and in the rest of South East Asia. In effect, India is the fifth Asian market where Animax makes its mark. The India-launch also makes the channel available in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Miller explains that while Animax is a general entertainment channel, the core audience it targets is the age group 15–24, while 7-14 and 25-30 age groups are secondary targets to the channel. In its current form, apart from the 24-hour English feed, Animax offers a 12-hour Hindi feed, which comprises of four hours of original programming and two repeats. “By April 1, 2005, we will have 100 percent Hindi content in place, in essence, giving a dual feed of Hindi and English content,” says Miller.
Presently, the channel gets its Hindi content from two vendors based in Hong Kong. “In sheer volumes, we could not locate a single vendor who could provide Hindi content and so we have roped in two. However, going forward, we will see if this can be based from India itself,” he adds.
Speaking on the market potential for the channel, Miller explains, “There are 94 million viewers in just six markets. And the youth TG is a dominant section of the Indian market. Bearing that in mind, the channel targets them as the core group. Also, we have experience in the Asian market that this content is accepted and it has generated appointment viewing everywhere from the youth TG. We believe that similar is the potential in India that can be tapped.”
From its scheduling, promotions and marketing, Animax has customised itself to suit Indian tastes and preferences. “We have signed Irfan Pathan as our brand ambassador,” informs Rohit Gupta, Executive Vice President, Sales, SET India, “There is a host of 360-degree marketing activities in place that would create awareness around the channel. We have also planned substantial ground activity around the channel,” he adds.
Dasgupta believes that Animax is a channel that will make its mark on Indian television purely due to the unique content it offers. However, at the same time, he admits that bringing in so many channel fragments the market further, “It slices the viewership number, but that is the way how any market develops. The market operation today caters to specific needs of consumers and so variants like these are brought in place. Increasing marketshare comes second, first one has to retain its share in the competitive environment today.”
The point that Dasgupta makes is evident in the news category which has as many as eight players. Despite new channels coming in, the category share hasn’t increased. Eyeballs move within the genre and only two or three players hold dominant positions. Even though Animax positions itself as a general entertainment channel, it would take some time before it breaks away the perception that animation is only for children.
In that light, the initial draw that the channel would get is from the kids’ TG. The case of the news category then applies to the kids’ category as well. The important aspect to watch out however, would be who the lead players would be in this genre.