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Pix’s key strategic initiatives in 2014

MUMBAI: Having more action movies, following a strong repeat strategy and adding programming blocks are some of the key strategic initiatives Pix will undertake in 2014.

Sony PixThe year gone by was important for Multi Screen Media’s (MSM) English movie channel Pix. It re-branded with the tagline ‘Stay Amazed’ to differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive environment through look and feel.

For this year, Pix business head Saurabh Yagnik’s aim is to maintain consistency in terms of strategy and performance. Genre diversity is another focus area. “Our strategy remains consistent with last year. We believe that the way to grow our business is to invest in content, break the clutter and be innovative while engaging with viewers. We will pursue this strategy through 2014.”

Mr. Saurabh Yagnik, EVP & Business Head, Sony PIXThe challenge for Pix and for the competition in the genre apart from having a strong library is to ensure that it has salience in the minds of its viewers as a port of call. “That is something that we have to consciously work on. This is a process of continuous improvement and we are happy with our progress so far. We also need some strengthening of our content for which we will continue to look for appropriate associations on an on-going basis.”

He adds that the feedback for the rebranding from viewers and advertisers has been very encouraging. “We have seen growth in our shares and are a clear No. 2 channel in the genre, and on few occasions have also been No. 1. We track brand health with our viewers and clients periodically and that has shown significant improvement as well. It is our constant endeavour to keep innovating and making the channel more and more relevant to our viewers and advertisers.”

Adding programming blocks

On the content side, one of the things that the channel will do is to add blocks. “These blocks would be added to create specific consumer propositions and unique association which help in building appointment, drive viewership and build salience within the channel.”

The other focus area is going beyond the 9 pm movie and building other time slots. The plan is to look at multiple slots. “We have always tried to build weekend afternoons, weekday afternoons and the 11 pm slots. So, these efforts will continue apart from what we do around the 9 pm slot.”

A strong repeat strategy

One issue that the genre faces is titles getting repeated heavily. Yagnik explains that any movie channel’s business is based on a strong repeat strategy, because it is the library that provides the bulk of its viewership. But he also concedes that it is important for a channel to optimise between presence of familiar titles in the programming grid and its repeat ratio. The optimisation is what helps in maximising viewership.

“We closely observe and evaluate the play-out pattern of our key titles so as to keep them in good health and not cause viewer fatigue.”

More action fare

Another trend in the genre is the huge amount of action fare showing across channels to the extent that they look the same and are undifferentiated. Yagnik notes that the genre operates in an ad-supported business model where the key driver for revenue is market share. “So we programme content that delivers higher market share. From a Hollywood perspective also, most of the content that they produce is action and the other genres follow.

“Action genre also does the best on TV. So, no ad-supported channel can wish away the presence of action movies. However, we are conscious that we should not be construed as an action-only movie channel. We are inclusive and do not focus only on the male audiences. Genre diversity is something that we very closely look at and monitor before planning schedules of movies played on the channel.”

Poor performance of drama

When one looks at films that rate well on the English movie channel, critically acclaimed dramas that win Oscar awards often do not figure in the top 10 list. Yagnik says that the answer to why their performance is not up to the mark lies in understanding the barriers to consumption of Hollywood material.

“These barriers mainly are the accent which could be difficult to follow and the unfamiliar cultural context. All of that leads to people not being able to relate to content and consume it. This is why most of the international Hollywood blockbuster movies tend to be dialogue and culture neutral, and focus instead on action and visual spectacle. Since drama is dialogue heavy and largely has cultural settings relevant to the US, they do not work as well on television channels in India.”

Building Pix on the ground

Beyond television, Pix is looking to take things to the next level on the ground to give a touch-and-feel experience. “We are currently looking to scale up our property called ‘Pix Premiere Nights’ (PPN). This is an endeavour to create an ecosystem around Hollywood.

“Our experience is that movies released with scale in theatres typically do well on television too. Hence, we are partnering with studios to help build scale and engagement during theatrical release. It helps us build an on-ground connect as well and build brand salience. We will keep exploring opportunities to build properties around the Hollywood ecosystem going forward.”

In terms of other marketing initiatives, he points out to Premier PIXathon. This saw four movies premiere in one day back to back. One can expect more initiatives like this in future as Pix tries to break the clutter. “We are having further properties including the James Bond franchise and some big premieres like ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’, ‘Hobbit 2’ and ‘Robocop’ that would be coming on the channel in near future. We will back it up with strong and innovative campaigns when we premiere them on our channel.”

The digital push

Coinciding with its re-branding exercise last year, Pix did a lot of things online and on social media like introducing an avatar called ‘Notty Pixy’. “We strongly believe in the power of social media and the internet in engaging with our viewers. We will continue to keep focusing on the same,” Yagnik says.

He adds that the channel does not chase fans; it chases engagement. “We are extremely pleased with our engagement levels in social media. On Facebook, our activity levels are as high as 12–15 per cent, the best in the category and we want to be sustaining and growing this further. We also have a very strong twitter presence and have had many trending conversations in the last year and hope to increase that even further.”