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Movie channels for Hindi movie premiers – hit or flop?

08-September-2005
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Movie channels for Hindi movie premiers – hit or flop?

First Sony Entertainment Television (SET) and now STAR Network – prima facie, the strategy of premiering a Hindi movie on a movie channel might sound profitable for the channel, but does it make commercial sense, given the acquisition rates of a good title?

One of the most expensive properties on television is Hindi movies. Traditionally, television has seen new movies being premiered on mass channels, given the large base that these channels offer, and then at a later stage, on the movie channels.

A change was seen when SET began intensifying focus on its movie channel, MAX. The Network announced that in addition to the cricket property, all big titles would also be aired on MAX.

However, examples like Devdas, where the delivery was lower than the dubbed Hollywood movies that STAR Plus was showing on the same day, changed the decision. Now new titles are premiering on the Network’s mass channel, Sony, again.

STAR India’s recent decision to air new titles on its movie channel, Gold, has created interest in the industry again. The first to come was ‘Swades’ – one of the most sought after titles of the year. The movie marked the new form of Gold and STAR left no stone unturned in ensuring promotions of the movie. The movie delivered a TRP of 3 in the Hindi speaking market for the target C&S 4+.

With numbers like 10+ for ‘Main Hoon Na’ on Plus and 7+ for ‘Dhoom’ on Sony, is the channel content with the numbers? “Swades was brought in to serve a purpose for the channel, which was to tell the viewers what to expect from Gold now and that more on these lines would be coming on the channel, where we will bring big and new titles and induce other innovative methods to enhance the viewing pleasure on the channel. It has served this purpose,” replied Ajay Vidyasagar, Head, Marketing and Communication, STAR India.

He further said, “We mustn’t forget the movie wasn’t a commercial hit. Given all these factors, these are rather good numbers.”

The industry, however, has a slightly different point of view to offer. “These numbers are below expectations,” said R Gowthaman, GM, Mindshare Fulcrum. “People have traditionally been seeing big movies on mass channels, which also have higher penetration. More people have a habit of tuning in and staying tuned in to a mass channel. From that perspective, it makes sense to first air the movie on the mass channel and then put the subsequent airing on the movie channels,” he added.

A point that PRP Nair, Senior Consultant, Media Direction, agrees with. “On a general note, to get the highest mileage from a movie it is a better idea to premier it on a mass channel. But if we get specific with Swades on Gold, I don’t think the movie would have rated any differently on the mass channel, as it is not a movie with a mass appeal,” he said.

Nair saw this as a drawback for Gold itself. He explained, “Plus has attained an enviable dominant position. Unlike other channels, it doesn’t need a movie to look better. For them it makes sense to adopt this strategy to attain leadership in the movie domain as well. However, movies with niche appeal cannot get this for them. It has to be movies with mass appeal.”

Bringing another point of view here, Nandini Dias, Vice-President, Lodestar Media, said, “It can be a problem for STAR in the longer run. Their movies on the movie channels are priced as much as they would be on the mass channel. If the deliveries don’t match, they might have to rework their rates.”

Facts like movie channels being lower in loyalty and being more of a boredom channel does lead to the popular opinion of the first airing of movie to be on a stronger base and hence on a mass channel. But experts do express that a differentiated strategy might just make sense for STAR if they have the right titles. Now, whether STAR India can profit from this strategy or turn back like SET would be an interesting watch.

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