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Multi Screen Media readies launch of a second Hindi movie channel

MUMBAI: In the backdrop of ad cap regulation and digitisation, major television networks are adding channels in the mass entertainment genres to aggregate audiences, create more inventory for advertisers to consume and consolidate their revenues.

Following in the footsteps of Star India and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), Multi Screen Media (MSM) is gearing up to launch its second Hindi movie channel. A new Hindi general entertainment channel  is in the drawing board but some distance away from reality. Even a second sports channel could be in the pipeline if rights to more sporting properties are pocketed.

The working title of the second Hindi movie channel is Max 2, a source in the company revealed. The launch will happen after the Indian Premier League (IPL), the telecast rights of which are with MSM. The IPL is MSM’s leading revenue-earning property.

“The work on the channel is on and it will launch soon. It is logical to launch another Hindi movie channel as we have a large movie library,” the source revealed.

After GECs, the Hindi movie genre is the second biggest in terms of reach. While females are a big draw, Hindi movie channels also give a consistent delivery of male audiences.

“Not only because they have a greater reach and attract more male audiences, movies are an inherent mix of any media plan as they are the staple of Indian family viewing,” said a senior executive of a movie channel.

With the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) capping advertising time at 12 minutes per clock hour, major television broadcasters have been launching new channels to increase ad inventories. The  second Hindi movie channel from MSM will logically fall under the same strategy. Besides, there is no major additional content cost as MSM anyway aggressively buys movies for Max and Sony Entertainment Television (SET).

“It’s a very logical step for us. If you see, only MSM does not have a second Hindi movie channel compared to the other two leading broadcasters Star and Zee. We would like to get into that game as we see a fairly large reach potential in the channel,” the MSM source explained.

However, another top executive of a rival channel said that launching a channel just for the sake of it is a bad idea. “I am sure they must be having a well-thought-out plan as there is a big operating cost attached to the channel, even if you discount the content and distribution expense in this case. Also, the movie acquisition prices have gone up tremendously and you have to feed the channel to create a differentiator. We will have to see how they plan it,” he added.

For MSM, the timing of the launch may be right. The new channel will strengthen the bouquet of MSM’s existing offering of seven channels—SET, SAB, Max, Mix, Six, Pix and AXN. With one more channel, it will also be able to absorb the cost of acquisition between three channels.

Movie channelsCannibalisation of existing audiences is always a fear. But Star India and ZEEL have positioned Movies OK and &pictures differently from their flagship movie brands and the new channels have worked well for them.

So, how viable is it to launch another channel in the genre? Industry experts peg the genre in the revenue range of Rs 1,000-1,100 crore ( Rs 10-11 billion), with a 10–15 per cent year-on-year growth. The top four channels take away the bigger chunk like any other genre.

At present, Max, Star Gold and Zee Cinema rule the Hindi movie channel space. The three channels keep shuffling in the pecking order, remaining in the top bracket. Fourth in line is Star India’s second Hindi movie channel Movies OK, followed by ZEEL’s second channel &Pictures.

UTV Movies, UTV Action and Filmy are sixth, seventh and eighth channels in the genre respectively.

The launch of Max 2 will drive movie acquisition prices up. “This is a problem all Hindi movie channels will face. While content costs climb, the genre is seeing a dip. The smaller broadcasters will find the going tougher,” a media analyst said.