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HBO - A mix of good programming and aggressive marketing delivering results

31-January-2002
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HBO - A mix of good programming and aggressive marketing delivering results

If the recent campaigns for Matrix and The Mummy are anything to go by, HBO is certainly shifting gears as regards to promoting the big titles. HBO launched a cross media, big budget campaign to promote these blockbusters and the viewership numbers for these movies do suggest that the move has paid off.

For the seven cities (Four metros, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Ahmedabad) The Mummy generated a TVR of 3.93%, which is a record of sorts for any English movie (TG: 15-34 Yrs, Male / Female, Sec A&B, C&S Homes). The Matrix too got its fair share of audience and generated a healthy TVR of 1.27% in the same markets.

Though the channel have been quite aggressive and innovative when it comes to promoting their products but a campaign at this scale has rarely been seen in the past. Unlike other main entertainment channels, movie as a product has a better re-run value but the dilemma for the channels is that the product is already sampled before it is released on the channel. So aggressive marketing and promotion can only help increase viewership to a certain extent, after that the title has to drive audience on its own.

So is this a shift in the marketing strategy for HBO or was it just a one-time blitz? Says Shruti Bajpai, Director Marketing, HBO "Promoting blockbusters, has always been a part of our strategy, which we will continue to adopt. Last year, 'The Matrix' was our blockbuster of the year, this year, with 'The Mummy', we decided to start the year with a major blockbuster - obviously both these titles are so big that we had to go all out to promote them - which is what we did."

Though the channel has been promoting movies under the banners of special themes like Saturday Night Movies, title driven promotions have been a one off case till date. "The focus of the campaign was 6 main cities (4 metros + Hyd, B'lore) where we went all out with press, theatre, radio, campaign.

The outdoor campaign was focused in Mumbai & Delhi. 'Matrix 'was our Diwali mega movie last year, where we had a special Diwali advertising association. Fiat Palio and Whirlpool were the sponsors. 'The Mummy' was part of our Saturday night blockbuster ad package, which is one of our offerings to advertisers. Levis and TVS were the main sponsors. Consequently, there will not be any need for special strategies to separately promote blockbusters, as most of our line-up will be very good." She added.

But how will this high budget campaign translate in to increased ad revenues since the viewership is largely title driven? Ms Bajpai says "I firmly believe that the reason for high advertiser confidence in HBO is because of the quality we deliver. Whether it is the top blocbusters, e.g. Matrix and ‘The Mummy’, or the latest movies, e.g. Autumn in New York, which was released in Indian theatres in Dec-Jan and will be premiered on HBO on the 2nd of Feb or whether it comes to showcasing Gloden Globe award winner 'The Band of Brothers' which again was premiered in India around the same time as the US of A premiere...... HBO has been consistently delivering a certain promise of high quality content."

"In the coming months you will be able to see a special Valentine's Day festival of 11 back to back romantic movies on the 14th Feb, a 32 movie strong Oscar Award nominees/winners in the Oscar Countdown, and movies like Sleepy Hollow, Blade, Nutty Professor amongst others. All this does lead to very strong levels of advertiser confidence and consequently, ad revenues." She added.

Apart from mass media campaigns HBO has also been using other channels to promote movies. Says Ms Bajpai, "Recently Stuart Little saw some clever promotion - apart from press ads, radio ads and 'on air' promotion, we also heavily promoted the movie on Cartoon Network so as to attract our young viewers and their parents."

The linkage between heavy promotions to drive movie viewership and consequently drive advertising is undisputable. But since movies is a very title driven genre, good programming is the key to success - marketing can only provide the extra 'push' needed to draw audiences. With exclusive tie-ups with 4 of the largest Hollywood studios: Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia/TriStar), Universal and Warner Bros (including New Line Cinema) HBO surely has very good content and a great programming line-up.

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