23 Nov 2017
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Sony Max HD looks to carve out its own niche

MUMBAI: Sony Pictures Networks India’s (SPNI) Hindi movie channel Sony Max is all set to get a high-definition sibling in the form of Sony Max HD.

However, the new channel, which will go on air on 25 December, will not be a mirror image of its standard definition namesake. The HD channel will have a different positioning, built as an independent premium brand for different genres of cinema.

While Sony Max has ‘Deewana Bana De’ as its tagline, Sony Max HD’s will announce ‘Jee Ke Dekho’. The packaging of the two channels will remain same; however, the HD channel’s logo has a different palette.

“We see this as an opportunity to set up a brand that stands for something different,” says SPNI senior EVP and business head Max, Mix and Max 2 Neeraj xcVyas, who will be spearheading the new channel as well.

So far, Sony Max was the only Hindi movie channel that did not have an HD channel. Its competitors, Star Gold and Zee Cinema, were quick to launch their HD channels.

neeraj vyasHowever, Vyas is very clear that the network did not want to launch an HD channel just for the sake of it. It had to be a unique offering, different from its SD version. After all, HD subscribers are a different audience altogether.

“We were very clear that we wanted to do something that others were not doing. We were also waiting for the right kind of content to come along. We also wanted to increase the content spread so that it became more holistic,” explains Vyas.

Sony Max HD will cater to SEC AB 18–44 metro and 1 million+ towns. Vyas informs that the channel will be available on all leading direct-to-home (DTH) platforms besides the top two or three multi-system operators (MSOs). Talks are on to rope in founder advertisers for the channel.

pk-posterThe channel will feature a blend of blockbusters (‘Dhoom’, ‘PK’, ‘Krrish’), critically acclaimed films (‘Paan Singh Tomar’, ‘CityLights’, ‘Shahid’), as well as all-time classics (‘Anand’, ‘Kabhi Kabhie’, ‘Silsila’, ‘Chandni’, ‘Chupke Chupke’).

The channel has created different slots for each day of the week to offer different kinds of cinema to the viewers. It is backed by a library of 300–325 films for this purpose. For example, the critically acclaimed films will air every Friday in a slot called ‘Friday Select’. Similarly, Saturday nights will be reserved for classical films in ‘HD Rewind’.

According to Vyas, the HD channel will allow the network to showcase films that otherwise do not get enough exposure on the SD channel. Sony Max, which caters to viewers in the Hindi heartland, airs movies that resonate with the masses.

He pointed out that a film like ‘Shanghai’ got one of lowest ratings in the history of Max. ‘Lootera’ is another film that did not work on Max.

dhoom“This platform is ideally suited for audiences who want to watch good cinema. We will have our ‘Dhooms’, ‘PKs’ and ‘Krrishes’, but now we will also have a segment for good films. The channel will have good cinema, good-looking cinema and popular cinema. It will be a combination of all three,” he averred.

The network has remastered 120 yesteryear films to air them on the HD channel. This is also why the HD channel took some time to launch.

Vyas also has his eyes set on short films and documentaries. However, the bad video quality is a major deterrent to put them on an HD channel.

“Cinema is about moments and the positioning of this channel is that we are here to celebrate those moments. It’s all about the magic of telling stories,” he noted.

Piku ImagesIn line with its positioning, the channel will air ‘Piku’ on Friday, ‘Queen’ on Saturday and ‘Bahubali’ on Sunday in primetime in its launch week.

Will Sony acquire more critically acclaimed films? “If the cost is right and if they have the potential to do well on TV, we will acquire smaller films,” pat came the reply from Vyas.

The channel has not yet taken a call on HD-first premieres, but it will evaluate on a case-to-case basis if it makes business sense.

Talking about the HD ecosystem in the country, Vyas said that the total HD subscriber base is in the region of 5.5–6 million. He expects the demand for HD channels to surge once MSOs start selling HD channels aggressively.

He also mentioned that out of 56 HD channels in the country, only 34 are monitored by BARC. These 34 HD channels generate 9–10 GRPs, which is very small, and the 80–90 per cent of these GRPs come from Hindi channels.

The HD channel will have a different set of advertisers. It will aggressively pursue advertising once the channel establishes basic connectivity and reach. “Right now, it’s all about establishing the brand,” he stated.

Currently, HD channels operate at 4–5 minutes of ads per hour, he stated. The ad rates of HD channels are around 40–50 per cent of SD rates as the base is very small. “Once the base goes up, the rates will go up,” he asserted.

So bullish is Vyas about the new channel that he expects it to break-even in the first year itself, as there are no major cost overheads.

Talking about marketing for the channel, Sony Max and Max 2 SVP marketing and communications Vaishali Sharma said that digital form the backbone of the campaign. The network would also use print media in a small measure to spread the word.

It is currently running hashtag #JeeKeDekhoSoon on Twitter. The video promo will break on the network on 23 December. It is also running a contest where fans are invited to share their ‘Jee Ke Dekho’ moments.

Sharma emphasised the uniqueness of the channel in terms of pitch and ethos. It is a different proposition altogether with different scheduling. It will reach viewers with finer sensibilities.