Movies might not be delivering as per expectations for channels of late, but they sure are a property every channel wants a share of. STAR India is already seeing experiments to leverage the property well and the latest is the decision to air 'Viruddh' on STAR Plus, STAR One and STAR Gold. Media professionals express that movies are becoming unpredictable and a recent example is the "disappointing" performance of 'Veer Zaara' on Sony.
'Viruddh's experiment is an interesting one. Holding true to its word that movies will be premiered only on STAR Gold as far as STAR India is concerned, the Network is showing the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer at 1.00 pm on its movie channel. However, with the following telecasts planned on STAR Plus at 4.00 pm and then on STAR One in the evening slot, the intention of not airing a movie on STAR Plus has changed.
Replying to why this change, Deepak Segal, EVP, Content and Communication, STAR India, said, "This is the television release of the movie and we are doing it in the theatrical form – just as you see afternoon and evening shows after the first show, we would be airing the movie thrice – on different channels on different time slots on the same day. As regards to why we are showing a movie on STAR Plus again, I'd like to say we reserve the right to change our decisions in the interest of the channels and the Network."
While media experts are sure that this decision will definitely benefit the channel in terms of revenue, they also see it diluting the initial proposition that the Network came with of strengthening STAR Gold and not taking the "easy way out of airing movies on STAR Plus", when it decided to discontinue the movie block on STAR Plus.
Nitasha Narad, Investment Director, CTG, GroupM, remarked on this, "It is going to take away from what the Network planned for STAR Gold. After airing two movies on the channel and then taking this step can also send signals that STAR doesn't want to take a chance by airing movies on Gold alone. While at present, the tactic does mean that STAR is getting more monies for the movie than it would have if it was only on STAR Gold, I don't know how much this benefits STAR Gold in the long run. For an example, the channel was a talking point when 'Swades' and 'Black' were aired. Now it is not."
Manoj Malkani, Head, Broadcast Investments, Starcom, is of a similar opinion. "By this, they have managed to make substantial revenue on a movie, which is one of the smaller budget releases in the year. They wouldn't have even managed breakeven had the movie aired only on STAR Gold," he noted.
At the same time, media experts believed that the experiment was a much-needed one for the growth of movies as a television property. Of late, movies haven't been delivering the critical mass that they once brought. According to Malkani, there were too many parameters that decided the fate of a movie – from the title to the platform to everything else that the channel did for marketing the movie, finally boiling down to what the competition aired on that night.
More disappointments in the form of 'Hum Tum', 'Swades', 'Black' and 'Veer Zaara' have come in the year than success stories like 'Dhoom', which rated a 7 plus. The next best in the year, so far, was 'Mughal-e-Azam' at a 4.89. 'Main Hoon Na' repeat (4.84) and the Hindi version of 'The Mummy' (4.57) on STAR Plus beat premiers like 'Mujhse Shaadi Karogi' (4.4) on Zee TV, 'Veer Zaara' (3.2) and 'Hum Tum' (2.4) – both on Sony.
Narad commented, "The performance of movies have gone down in the last few months, but if you observe, mass channels as a genre are de-growing. With the exception of game shows, everything has dipped. What is important, however, is that they are still an option that buyers have and there always will be hype and expectations from a movie."
While the dip in mass channels is one of the reasons, the other reasons that the professionals lay out are the surplus of titles with a new premier every month and the increase in one-off television properties.
"Every channel is trying to do something dynamic and there are much more choices today for the consumer. There are instances when a competing channel would deliberately schedule something 'big' when a channel is airing its big title movie," expressed Malkani, adding, "In that sense, the competitive landscape is also changing from what it was."
No matter the direction where movies are headed, channels will continue making a beeline for acquisitions year after year. STAR is contemplating repeating the 'Viruddh' exercise with its forthcoming movies as well.
In addition, there are too many pre-release tie-ups that are coming in place like STAR with Filmkraft's 'Krishh' and Sony's JV with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's forthcoming movie. Each player is ready to outdo or copy the other – whatever gets it that precious viewer eyeball.
(Ratings based on TAM Media Research for the Hindi speaking market, TG CS 4+)