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English movie genre one of the biggest gainers post digitisation

By Saurabh Yagnik

Mr. Saurabh Yagnik, EVP & Business Head, Sony PIXThe English movie category witnessed a lot of movement in 2013, some of which are very positive and the course of others will be understood in a passage of time. The future looks promising.

The biggest thing to impact the category in 2013 was the continued impact of digitisation. It has had a positive impact on the English movie category. Our category was constrained in terms of distribution in the analogue era because of the paucity of bandwidth leading to prohibitive cost of distribution as well as poor viewing experience since most of the channels were placed in the UHF bands.

Digitisation took away the distribution handicap. DAS Phase I and Phase II implementation has been a big boon for the English movie genre, which grew by 60 per cent post Phase II, when compared to pre-DAS shares. The genre has not only expanded in the metros, but even in non-metros. We have been one of the biggest gainers post digitisation.

While viewership in the category has seen an increase, the objective is to engage audiences and have them spend more time on the genre and for us more particularly on our channel. Currently at a category level, a viewer on average spends only 54 minutes per week which is 12 per cent of the time they spend on Hindi GEC and 30 per cent of Hindi movies.

The category needs to focus on increasing share of viewership. Our objective is to drive up time spent on the category and the frequency with which people consume the genre and category. For this we need to ensure that we have the right kind of content which people like to view (basically familiar and big titles). Familiar franchises, i.e. ‘Iron Man’, ‘Shrek’, ‘Rocky’, ‘Mission Impossible’, ‘Spider-Man’ and big premieres like ‘Men in Black 3’, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’, ‘Skyfall’, ‘Avengers’, ‘Life of Pi’ to name some, have fared well on channels in the category and have helped drive growth.

The English movie category is fragmented with 10 players in the market. Year 2013 saw some more channels getting launched and this added to the clutter around which viewers make choices. Also, launch of newer channels drive up the demand for content leading to cost escalation. Further, the rupee depreciation puts additional pressure on the costs. An increase in the number of channels and sources of supply have not gone up even as the number of channels have grown, leading to further loss of differentiation among the channels.

Launch of premium services in 2013 was also a step in the right direction. The size and scale of this line of business will need to be realised in due course.

Our category has a significant chunk of young audiences. The year that went by also saw a growing influence of social media at large with Facebook having ~80 million members and Twitter ~20 million. This presents the opportunity for increased leverage of social media in driving engagement and viewership for the category. In fact, all of large promotables have a significant social media leg to off air communication and engagement.

There are some challenges that I foresee for this category going forward. The most important challenge is to drive higher viewership. Clutter and the consequent lack of differentiation are two of the biggest issues here. The viewer base is low on ‘loyalty’ and the problem keeps getting compounded as content changes hands from one channel to another year after year. What a viewer sees on our channel today will be played on some other channel tomorrow.

Our audience wants to watch what is ‘already popular’. Viewership is title driven—channel popularity only determines the ‘Port of Call’. Hence, the challenge is to have compelling content and provide enough differentiation on the channel so that it helps to build salience and loyalty. Accordingly, it is our constant endeavour to be a companion of relevance to the viewer.

Premium services have been launched in the category but there is also the challenge of building viable business models for them, which I believe will get built in the course of time.

Challenges will remain but our focus will be how to differentiate and innovate and hence engage, excite and entice our viewers.

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