With the launch of Sony Entertainment Television’s English movie channel PIX soon, a moot point to ponder is whether the industry has enough space to accommodate four players in the genre. Even though it is too early to take a call on this, industry players opine that the majority of the market share will remain between the top two players.
Efforts from players like HBO and STAR Movies to retain their audience share is already seen, but both players are sure that there is place for more players in the segment. Shruti Bajpai, Country Head, HBO, explained more on this, “Movies and cricket are the two most long lasting and popular genres in India and will continue to be the most watched genre. As long as you have compelling content people will continue to watch.”
A STAR spokesperson seconded this. “There is always place for more players. The TV scene in India is developing in a nature where two TV households are a reality and people will look more and more for alternative content,” the spokesperson said.
However, both channels were quick to point that it was not so much about the number of channels, but the kind of titles that determined how much time people were spending on any of these channels.
“I personally don’t think it’s to do with quantity of movie channels, but the quality of content. We have so many channels in the country today, but how many of these do we actually watch? And I can confidently say that with a power-house of four of the top Hollywood studios as our studio partners (Warner, Sony, Paramount and Universal) and the exclusive cutting edge HBO Original franchise, HBO has become and will continue to be the one stop destination for movie lovers,” asserted Bajpai.
STAR Movies is also confident, citing similar reasons, and the fact that content on the channel had been compelling enough to show some positive numbers. “The channel has grown to a leadership position as we have been in the position to showcase some of the best titles,” said the STAR spokesperson.
Evidently, the competition is stiff between HBO and STAR Movies at present. Zee Studio is playing in its own space, while Hallmark is still in the extreme niche category. Do the leaders see loss in share with the coming of the new channel? “Like I said before, movies enjoy the unique advantage of being one of the most watched genre as compared to other genres we have seen in the marketplace. While there may be hiccups in the short term, in the long run the channels that offer the best in terms of content will continue to flourish,” replied Bajpai.
She is also clear that at least by the end of 2006, the majority share in the market would still be between the main players. “I am not a soothsayer, but the prime place will be taken by the leaders in Hollywood entertainment: HBO and STAR Movies,” Bajpai maintained. According to the STAR spokesperson, “Being the No. 1 English movie channel in India, STAR Movies welcomes competition, which will only work to viewers’ advantage.”
Presenting the newcomer’s point of view, N P Singh, COO, SET India, had said at the time of the announcement of PIX’s launch, “We appreciate the fact that there are other good players in this segment, but English movies is a growing segment. At present, only two players really are seeing any action. We believe that with the content that PIX has to offer, the viewer will have reasons to spend more time with the genre.”
For Singh, the success of PIX would be based not only on the kind of content but the manner in which it would be packaged and presented as well. He said, “PIX is a channel for Hollywood movie lovers. Initially of course we have an advantage given the relation with Sony Pictures and by that, the Columbia Tri-Star and MGM titles, but we will be working with other companies as well. More importantly, it is the manner in which PIX will present the movies to the viewers that matters.”
Replying to what would work in its favour, HBO’s Bajpai said, “The sheer depth and width of content is the key success factor.” For STAR Movies it would be “great titles and the ability to connect with the Indian viewer”, its spokesperson said.