In an exclusive interaction with exchange4media, Saurabh Yagnik, EVP & Business Head, Sony PIX & AXN talks about digitization roll-out, initiation of BARC, intensified competition in the English Entertainment genre and the entry of e-commerce as new category of spenders as the key highlights of 2014.
What are the key highlights of the industry in the year 2014?
I think digitization and its roll out. Roadblocks in Phase I & II and the fact that Phase III & IV have been deferred are one of the key highlights. If you look at the content aggregator order it has changed the distribution landscape for us. In terms of advertising the way I look at it the overall optimism in the industry has seen good momentum in terms of Ad Ex. The entry of new categories like ecommerce was another big highlight.
What are the top developments specific to your genre in 2014?
The launch of premium services is one of the things that have been differently done to what was there earlier. Those kinds of models have been now created. It is not that they have been hugely successful but at least they have come into existence. I think the competitive intensity continues to remain and we have seen some new players investing in new content. While we stepped up our investments in content there were some other players who have stepped up. Some new channels were launched and they were put in play. Romedy Now, which is hybrid channel, it is not a pure play movie channel, it is movie and series channel or Star Movies Action with the re-launch. A lot of learnings are coming out of viewer behavior with digitization. The reach advantage goes away and how exactly do you keep the viewer engaged and keep your channel brand relevant is the other piece that I see. We have also seen in terms of advertising ecommerce and mobile handset categories actively participating in the English space. Certain channels have seen investments happening. This year we saw Zee Studio re-launch themselves and they also invested in Paramount Studios in the second half, so I definitely saw them stepping up their investments. So it is exciting times and everybody is trying to drive their own businesses but I think it helps you keep yourself on your toes in our industry.
What are the challenges that you see facing the industry?
One of the biggest challenges we have is the absence of a robust viewership data. So going forward with the implementation of BARC we hope with the universe expansion, etc. we will be able to get better insights and better data into our kind of shows and properties. There are so many times we sit to evaluate the effectiveness of certain campaigns and to correlate the buzz happening for properties with viewership. We are finding very little correlation happening in many cases. So I believe the right sample size will possibly help in improving the robustness of the measures.
Some of the properties for your channels which did were the key highlights for the year?
I think for AXN it was the launch of the property ‘The not so ordinary weekends’. Extant with Halle Barry, even when we repeated on prime time did really well. We have had Sex and the City doing very well on the channel. Properties like So You Think You Can Dance and The Voice have been getting good traction. Shows like Elementary and Supernatural are popular franchises which are attached to our channel. So all of those have been delivering for us. In terms of a highlight we also signed a deal with CBS where we got access to their library and new shows like Scorpion and Madam Secretary to name a few that would be launched, so we are excited about that.
From a PIX point of view we did an innovation around premieres where we had a Premiere Pixathon, which is 4 back to back premieres on the same day. We had big premieres like Robocop, the Hobbit 2, Captain Phillips, etc. We also invested in content at the Marvel library with Iron Man 1 & 2, Captain America and Thor. We have also recently invested in the Star Wars franchise. We have been continuously investing in content to up the quality of our library to strengthen our library as well as drive strong perception titles also. In terms of engagement we have done something that has never been done in the industry for example in Captain Phillips, Tom Hanks t-shirt was given to a winner in India. And not to forget it we ended with the PIX School of Bonding. Overall I think it gave us the momentum and has done good for the channel in many ways. In December we have the premiere of Raid 2, we are doing an amazing league line up of all the superheroes that we have on the channel. We would be having a line-up of all the Super PIX movies which is the movie of the month and of course Bond as a property will continue on the channel.