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Star’s strategy for English entertainment channels in 2015

MUMBAI: 2015 was a year of revamp for Star India’s English channel portfolio. While Star pulled the plug on Fox Crime, it also launched Star Movies Select HD to break away from the incessant clutter of action on English movie channels. There was also an HD version of FX. 

With Star Movies and Star World lying comfortable, Star’s aim over the past three years has been to give its second-tier of English entertainment channels a push and taking advantage of cable TV digitisation. Accordingly, in 2013, Star Movies Action and Star World Premiere were launched. The focus in 2015 was also to cater to more sophisticated English movie audiences.

Star Movies Select HD launched

Many English movie channels focus on action and popular content, which leaves out space for a channel to tap those viewers who yearn for more sophisticated content. That is why Star India in 2015 decided to target this class of viewers with Star Movies Select HD.

kevin vazThere is not much of an overlap in terms of the library with Star Movies. The library has around 1,000 movies and the tagline is ‘Hollywood’s Hall of Fame 365 Days, 365 Stories’. In an earlier interaction, the then Star India business head of English and Bengali cluster Kevin Vaz (now he has additional charge of Star Plus and Life OK) noted that Star Movies has been a platform for the biggest action movies, and blockbuster channels in the genre devote 80 per cent of their content to action.  

“The same kind of film plays all the time. All the channels look the same. Viewers want variety and stories. People want to see more than just action. They want drama, comedy, animation. The issue is how we can cater to this audience. This is how Star Movies Select came about,” he said. 

Star_Movies_Select_Hollywood's Hall of fameThe difference between Star Movies and Star Movies Select is very clear. Star Movies is a dialogue-independent channel as it showcases a lot of action; it is more a visual treat. Star Movies Select HD, on the contrary, is dialogue intensive as the films that play here are story-led and critically acclaimed.

All the films have an IMDB rating of at least 6. The channel hosts Oscar-winners and nominees such as ‘Boyhood’, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, ‘The Theory of Everything’ and ‘Birdman’. The channel plans to target a premium audience with the HD feed. 

“The HD penetration will grow. The total HD universe grew by 35 per cent last year. Now there are 4.5 million homes. In the next couple of years, it could reach eight million homes. You will see a doubling of HD homes,” Vaz had then said. 

The TG of Star Movies Select would be a level up, as they will need to understand stories. 

For the channel, 9 pm is the key area of focus. A different movie airs in this slot every day, with no repeat telecast for a year. In a year, there will be over 30 premieres. The channel also has a monthly slot for movies that have not been released in India, such as ‘Calvary’ and ‘Baggage Claim’. 

“We will show a fresh movie at 9 pm every day. If I air films like ‘Gone Girl’ at 9 pm, it will not be repeated at this time for a whole year. Out of the 10 Oscar-winners last year, seven will be on Star Movies Select,” Vaz had explained at the time of launch. 

There are also thematic blocks on the channel such as book adaptations, biopics, true stories and iconic movies. 

Star_Movies_LogoStar treats the concept of a second channel very differently. “Broadcasters play all the movies on their first channel. On Star Movies Select, you will not see more than 10 per cent of films from Star Movies. Ninety per cent of movies will be exclusive to Star Movies Select. The 10 per cent overlap has to be a really big movie like ‘Life of Pie’, which offers both a great story and visual extravaganza,” Vaz had stated then.

The new channel will not affect the libraries and schedules of Star Movies and Star Movies Action. On the ad front, the channel has the normal amount of ad airtime in an hour. The target is to get the premium segment of advertisers, cutting across categories like automobile, handsets, white goods and FMCGs.

Fox Crime shuts down

fox-crime-mainIn 2015, Star shut down Fox Crime, which was a crime and investigative English entertainment channel. Effective 19 April 2015, the signals of the channel, both analogue and digital, were discontinued. 

Star India had earlier shut non-performing channels like Star One (Hindi general entertainment) and Fox Action Movies (English action movies), and replaced them with Life OK and Star Movies Action respectively.

Fox Crime was launched by Fox International Channels (FIC) in 2010. Fox Crime initially aired its Asia feed and was available only on some DTH and select cable platforms. It was replaced by Fox Crime India in September 2012, when Star India took over the operations and re-launched the channel. Over the years, the channel had witnessed some growth in viewership. However, it did not grow as much as the company had anticipated. 

“At the re-launch in 2012, Star India had promoted the channel heavily. Ogilvy had come out with an innovative campaign for the channel and it was the only channel completely devoted to the crime and investigation genre in India. Since the English entertainment space has always remained focused on action and thriller, it was perceived that Fox Crime would have the first mover’s advantage,” said a media buyer.

However, the genre did not grow much as the mainstream channels were airing the bigger shows. “The English entertainment genre itself is small and finding a niche within it is not easy,” he added. Targeted at SEC A, 15–35-year-old audiences across the key metros, the channel struggled to give a competition to other channels in the English entertainment space, including sister channel Star World, Zee Café and AXN. While FX witnessed good growth, Fox Crime India could not grow the genre.

Ramping up FX

FX channelAnother big push made by Star in 2015 was in the male focused FX. It was in late 2013 that FX decided to go after AXN and see how it could become the choice of channel for males. Investments were made in content to bring in shows like ‘Prison Break’, ‘The Listener’, ‘The Guardian’, ‘The West Wing’, ‘Fringe’ and ‘X-Files’. 

FX got the distinct positioning of being edgy, thus targeting males. FX looks to cater to a highly evolved audience with edgy content. This year, the ramp-up plan included the premiere of latest seasons of four shows during the weekend with day-and-date release along with the US, and the launch of FX HD later this month. The channel, which comes with the tagline ‘Edge of entertainment’, aimed to be edgier going forward.

FX focused on premieres. While the channel introduced a lot of classics and got the viewers closer to the category through shows like ‘The Walking Dead’, ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘The X-Files’, ‘Prison Break’ and more, in May this year two big changes were made. Firstly, the company changed the entire packaging of the channel to make it look edgier, by adapting the international FX channel packaging. Secondly, it came up with the idea of ‘First on FX’.

FXHD“The earlier notion about the channel was that FX plays shows that have already been aired on other channels. Starting May onwards, we came up with the bold statement that everything will be ‘First on FX’. We launched 50 new shows, along with the upcoming shows,” Vaz had said in an earlier interaction.

The content basket has a mix of comedy, political dramas, musicals, psychological thrillers, romantic dramas, and science fiction during the weekdays.

Then, in October, it started day-and-date release of the latest seasons of four of shows, along with the US, during the weekends as part of ‘FX Torrents’. The slot ‘FX Torrents’ airs shows including ‘Homeland’ season 5, ‘Dr Who’ season 9, ‘Empire’ season 2 and ‘The Affair’ season 2.

Moreover, following the success of back-to-back binge format that was experimented with, FX also launched ‘FX Top Rated’ on 29 August, where viewers could watch shows back to back. These include shows like ‘Madmen’ (7), ‘Louie’ (5), ‘Last Man on Earth’ (1), ‘Homeland’ (4), ‘Doctor Who’ (8) and ‘Wayward Pines’, ‘Sons of Anarchy’, ‘American Horror Story’ and more.

All the biggest and critically acclaimed shows with IMDB rating of over 7 are curated were played as a strip for people to binge-watch during the weekends. So every weekend, there was a full dose of entertainment with ‘FX Torrents’ in the night and ‘FX Top Rated’ during the days.

Star India also launched the high-definition feed of the channel.

FX HD has output deals with Fox, Disney and Sony, and has hand-picked shows from CBS, BBC and NBC. Star India is trying to push for more exclusive deals.

While Star World is for family viewing, FX is for a group of audience that specifically wants cult and critically acclaimed shows. This audience has more enhanced taste and is more evolved from the regular English viewer. They consume shows that are more layered, shows typically airing on American cable. FX is a dedicated channel catering to this audience.

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