For HBO, 2003 was a better year. As per the channel’s officials, HBO scored on both accounts – differentiated programming and cornering channel share and ratings. For 2004 the channel is thinking big. Importantly, it has drawn a growth strategy and from the looks of the first quarter’s plans, the aim is to get more than its present claim of showing 70 per cent of the top 20 English blockbusters.
“2003 has definitely been a very good year for us,” states Shruti Bajpai, Country Manager, HBO Asia, “And the plan for our first quarter aims at ensuring that the success follows."
Speaking more on her plans for 2004, she says, "We have in any case showcased really big movies, whether you take a Matrix, Lara Croft or The Mummy. And there was substantial work that was done around the movies. So we took this a step further and we came up with a slot called The Big One to begin the New Year.”
The big one, as per Bajpai will showcase one mega movie in a quarter and ‘Spiderman’ is selected for the first quarter. The channel has planned all the works around the movie. The multimedia campaign unrolls today. HBO is promoting the movie in all the mediums, print, radio, outdoors and electronic. Interactive activities are designed around the movie on the web. Also, for the first time, the movie channel will make its presence felt on other channels like Sony Entertainment Television, MTV and Discovery.
Apart from this, the channel has also planned activities revolving around the Oscars, which are scheduled for February 29 in 2004. The channel will present ‘Latest to the Greatest’, which will showcase 30 award winning and nominated movies. In February, the channel also has work planned around Valentine’s Day. Other features to watch out for in the month would be Rise of the Machines and other blockbusters like the Scorpion King and The Training Day. The plan for March includes movies revolving around the International Women’s Day.
Bajpai expresses, “On the movies front, HBO original movies will also be robust in 2004. We will air mega works like The Gathering Storm, Mira Nair’s Hysterical Blindness and Live from Baghdad. Apart from these, we will also bring the following season of our series Sex and the City. These series have worked very well for us and it is basically the success that Sex and the City enjoyed, due to which we are continuing with the series. It constituted to our success in 2003 substantially.”
Speaking more about HBO’s experiences in the year gone by, Bajpai says, “2003 worked well. In December we screened the Best of the Best. In ideas like these we cornered ratings. TAM media research ratings for this month, across English entertainment channels (Cartoon Network, Star Movies, Star World, Discovery, Zee English, Zee MGM, Animal Planet, Hallmark) gave us the highest prime time TVRs in the six metros for the age group 15 to 44.”
Explaining further she says, “Of the top 15 programmes, 11 were HBO’s and we grossed a channel share of 42 per cent. This is where ratings speak about our performance. Then we also presented innovative themes like filmmakers festivals, showcasing, Hollywood, Europe, Asia. Now that might not be a huge rater but it is a great differentiator. In November, we got 70 per cent channel share for our Friday themes.”
Bajpai is content with the performance of the previous year with these kinds of numbers. Now what are the channel’s expectations with the current marketing activities that it is indulging in? “We don’t want to speculate or benchmark. We are confident of our offering and whatever is appealing will generate the results. Our blockbusters have always done well and something like Spiderman will do well.”