In an exclusive conversation with exchange4media, Monica Tata, Managing Director, South Asia, HBO talks about HBO’s priorities, future of the English movie space, and how players in the genre differentiate themselves with consumer experience and not content.
How would you explain the future of the English movie genre?
The English movie space has not seen a dramatic growth from a viewership perspective. The pie is less than 4 per cent! This includes everything: infotainment, movies, entertainment, etc. Although the revenue has grown, it has not grown to the extent of the news genre. Reasons could be attributed to multiple factors. Special Interest Channels (SICs) in the future will show higher propensity for consumption on digital fronts. That is the reason why SIC players believe that digitisation will work in their favour. While ad-revenue is the core focus for most of the broadcasters, it would be interesting to see how that revenue model changes, with reference to pay channels; based on that HBO has two premium services, HBO Defined and HBO Hits without any commercial break.
From the perspective of a movie lover, you are giving him a fabulous experience. But in that case, one has to pay for it. That is why it would be interesting to see how pay channel model works eventually to benefit platform owners and also broadcasters.
Considering the environment, do you see the scope of the genre expanding to tier II and III towns?
From a viewership point, the answer should be yes. But, it also depends on the targeted market. How ready and represented are they when it comes to data collection. Today our representation is very minimal. Our reference point is the data. Our reference point needs to change, which is a huge challenge. Unless there is clarity over the size of the universe, there will be questions such as, ‘are we well represented in the entire space?’ That is what we have to see. Reality is that India is one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world. English is highly consumed, but the viewership is not complementing that statistics. There is hope that correct representation of the market will help us get into newer territories.
Do you believe the present rating system does not complement the expanding universe?
Yes. It is not a correct representation, citing it is too small. It is not the correct representation of the language spoken size or may be the socio-economic size as well.
How would you define your target group?
We are talking to an urban upmarket consumer who wants to appreciate good things in life. That does not mean he does not enjoy Hindi content or Bollywood or regional movies. My target would be someone who has a global taste, but is not averse to Indian content too. Somebody who has been exposed a lot internationally, who is appreciative of good things in life. He does not have to be a very snooty, elitist kind, but must understand and speak English language clearly.
Do you think subtitle introduction and increasing globalisation has contributed to the growth of the genre?
Each country has its own nuances. India is a complex country. One cannot have an apple to apple comparison in this case. Subtitling did help a lot. But there are cases of dubbed content, which have also worked well. Today, it is not just about content, it is about overall experience. Consumer is spoilt for choice. Connect with the consumer matters more, otherwise there is no differentiating factor and one gets classified as another movie channel.
Talking about competition, there are nine players in the English movie genre. How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
I keep reiterating the fact that our premium channel concept brings that differentiation. That is true for all the genres (all channels speaking the same language). The differentiation would come about when you bring some new experience to the consumer. The difference factor is positioning or scheduling, promotion of the property. Content will almost remain same for most of them. In the last decade or so, content has only moved from one place to another. The growth today in the English entertainment space has reached a saturation point. If one wants to grow as business, one has to move in a different direction completely and that is only possible with premium positioning. So, we are focussing on both, content as well as consumer experience.
Do you think the English movie content is underserved in the country?
Content is usually acquired from various studios, but yes consumer experience is definitely what is underserved here.
How are you planning to expand your pay TV segment?
It has got a lot to do with getting ourselves seeded in as many platforms as possible and then communicating to the consumer base. My priority is to get our premium service more strongly penetrated than what it is currently and working rigorously with Turner to keep HBO in the leadership position.