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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We are more local than hbo and Star Movies

While they count on providing viewers with a local feeling, Sony Pix believes that selective, innovative & effective marketing can fetch it the number one spot among English movie channels in India, finds Pallavi Srivastava

They debuted in India in 2006 as the third channel in the English movie category, at first counting on movies from the Sony Pictures and MGM library, but slowly incorporating other popular releases as well. Their inherent movie bank combined with local content like ‘Chicks on Flicks’ (where Indian movie critics review Hollywood movies) has however ensured that the channel sustain its strong viewership over the last few years. The channel’s average channel share for the last month was 13.4% (Source TAM, Week 41, 2009 - Week 45, 2009). But as far as competing with the top two players Star Movies and HBO goes, Sony Pix is still way behind in the race. Sunder Aaron, Business Head of Sony Pix, is however confident of the channel’s future growth and believes that over the next two years Pix will conquer the number one crown among the English Movie channels in India. In a candid talk with 4Ps B&M, Aaron reveals how exactly he plans to do it.

4Ps B&M: Keeping in mind the fact that Star Movies and HBO are old and strong players in the category, how do you ensure that you stand out?

We are more local than HBO and Star movies. These channels are programmed and run out of Hong Kong and Singapore, while our channel is run out of India. That is why we have the freedom to create some original local programming especially for India. For instance we have a show called ‘Chicks on Flicks’ where Indian movie critics review Hollywood movies. This gives a distinctive value to our channel. Look at HBO and it can be an HBO anywhere in the world. But we add a local flavour to our channel. That’s our USP.

4Ps B&M: Where do you wish to take the channel two years down the line?

We would like to see ourselves as the numero uno in the category with around 30-35% of channel share. Currently it’s averaging at about 20%. However, for the last few weeks we are at around 25%. We are quite aggressive about going and interacting with our viewers, doing ground events and so on. As a result of such initiatives we are up there with HBO now. On any given week we are beating HBO in some or other region of the country. I think we are doing very well as far as the channel’s plan goes and in the next two years we will become more competitive.

4Ps B&M: With the entry of many new channels, now the English movie channel space in India has become a lot more competitive and the intensity of the same is rising with every passing day. Do you think it has changed the dynamics for you?

No, I don’t think so. We know what our plan is. From the very beginning we have aimed to overtake HBO and Star Movies and it’s still the same. As we know what we want, I am not affected by WB, which is more like HBO. However, as a cinema lover I am happy that channels like Lumeire and World Movies have surfaced, which bring world cinema to the audience. But I really wonder where these channels will get money from? Yet, I have to admire them for being a sub niche going after absolutely restricted audience. Also as far as channel share is considered for this category, they aren’t significant at all. We are not into such games, for sure.

4Ps B&M: What is your marketing budget for the current fiscal year?

Well, I would say several million dollars. Given the global recession, you have to be a lot smarter in spending the dollars these days. As such because of recession there have been cost cuts across the globe, across industries. At present we are very particularly careful and selective while spending our money on promotions and other such marketing activities. But then, we have made sure that the money that we do spend is effective and that reflects in our growing channel share. However, we are still on with events like Hollywood Pix your brain. It’s a Hollywood trivia related ground event happening every year. In this our team travels around mini metros to popular hangouts such as malls, multiplexes, colleges and corporate parks, where the channel invites people to try out their Hollywood trivia knowledge.

4Ps B&M: How important are ground events in your marketing strategy?

Ground events are very important for us to get connected with the audience. It comprises about 20% of our overall marketing budget. After all, at the end of the day its all about spending the marketing dollars smartly.

4Ps B&M: How has the channel grown in last one year in terms of revenue?

We have seen continued growth. Initially, we were expecting some effects of the slowdown as we didn’t know how the slowdown will affect us. But, fortunately, we have stayed on the course. Despite slowdown in media there is growth in our category and that is the most encouraging part.

4Ps B&M: From here what is going to be the biggest challenge for Sony Pix?

Well, I would say to get new advertisers in the English movie channel category will be the biggest challenge for all the players. Getting growth in terms of audience in smaller markets will be another challenge too.

4Ps B&M: So, how do you plan to attract new advertisers to Sony Pix?

Through original shows and big movies like we showcased ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. This brought ING, which was not an advertiser with us before, on board. ING became the presenting sponsor for the movie. We now plan to focus on combination of interesting programming, good movies and innovative marketing to lure advertisers.

Pallavi Srivastava

For more articles, Click on IIPM Article.

Source : IIPM Editorial, 2010.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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