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Sony Pictures’ strategy for 2nd English movie channel Sony Le Plex HD
MUMBAI: Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) has launched its second English movie channel Sony Le Plex HD with the tagline ‘Where You Belong’.
While Pix targets mass viewers of blockbusters or what the broadcaster calls Casanovas, Sony Le Plex HD targets loyalists. These are people who love both blockbusters and critically acclaimed films like ‘Spotlight’, ‘Ex Machina’ and ‘Foxcatcher’.
Since both sets of viewers watch blockbusters that offer visual appeal, most of the English movie channels cater to that segment. Loyalists are underserved and this new channel will cater to them. The aim is to drive conversations for loyalists, create a community and value.
The new channel joins Star Movies Select HD from Star India and MN+ from Times Network, both of which also cater to the discerning viewer.
Sony Le Plex HD from SPNI has 400 movies in the library. The library has come from SPNI’s existing deals with studios like Universal, Sony Pictures, Disney and Lionsgate. It also has a deal with PVR. There will be very little overlap with Pix. Building a community through unique properties, interesting packaging is how SPNI hopes to distinguish the new channel from the many other English movie channels that dot the Indian television landscape.
The HD-only channel is available in about 85–90% of DTH and digital cable homes. It is being offered in the English HD movie bundle for free. SPNI executive VP, business head English cluster Saurabh Yagnik puts the market size for the new channel at seven million homes. For SD, size and scale would have to be built and distribution has to be wider. He is confident that loyalists will migrate to an HD pack.
The name of the new channel is intended to convey that the channel offers a multiplex experience at home. This is done through HD and through properties like ‘The Night Show’, ‘The Noon Show’, ‘The Late Night Show’ and ‘Le Premiere’.
Every Sunday will see a movie premiere on the channel. Fifty-two weeks will see 52 premieres. The first premiere is ‘Spotlight’, which won two Oscars this year including Best Picture.
Yagnik explains that the growth of Hollywood has resulted in the segmentation of audiences into two distinct categories. “One being the mainstream cinema offering action and special effects movies while the other is the non-mainstream cinema that focuses on the storyline, plot and acclaim of the movie. Thus, while ‘Furious 7’ is in one category, ‘Spotlight’ is in the other.
“The market for non-mainstream cinema is currently underserved in our country and Sony Le PLEX HD aims to own this segment. The channel will not only showcase critically acclaimed films but also build an ambience around them in a way that enables great conversations, thereby helping create a common ground for people to build a community of quality movie lovers,” Yagnik says.
He offers the example of ‘9.0 Talk’, a property that he hopes will inspire conversations. The property’s aim is to inspire conversations through themes and listicles is one way to do that. For instance, one thing that is common between Hugh Jackman and Amy Adams is that neither has won an Oscar. Another slot called ‘The Magicians’ showcases movies and the magic that happens behind the camera.
What is interesting is that the channel will air some films from the past also like ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Scent of a Woman’.
A feeling of belonging
As the channel’s tagline is ‘Where You Belong’, the aim is to serve as a premium hangout for viewers to connect and converse over quality Hollywood movies.
Yagnik explains that the experience of watching a good movie is something that we immediately want to express and we do so through conversations. “We might be different in the way we view or perceive movies, but all of us converge at one underlying emotion—our love for good movies. Where you are a doer, a chiller, a traveller, a workaholic, if you simply love good movies this is where you belong.”
The quality of a loyalist
Yagnik describes loyalists as being confident, well-educated, affluent, English-speaking viewers who can speak in their mother tongue if required. “They are achievers, dreamers, artists. They converge on common touch points. Cafes, pubs, digital media is where they converse about Hollywood. Sony Le Plex HD is a premium, fun hangout for this community.”
Forming the strategy for the new channel took three to four months. Based on the insight that audiences want demarcations between channels, Pix and Sony Le PLEX HD are very distinct. There will be very little title overlap between them. “We had to create different boundaries to address the need gap. We knew that creating conversations around the new channel was important.”
In terms of BARC, Yagnik said that it is one metric but not the only one. One also looks at social media engagement, box-office and internal research.
These are other means to see if consumption of the genre is growing. “You don’t judge a business on the here and now but on the basis of future potential.”
For English movies, the ad and subscription revenue split is typically 60:40. But for the new channel the hope is to start at 50:50 and then reduce the dependence on advertising revenue.
Yagnik noted not having ads is not a viable business model, as people in India are not used to paying for a channel, which people in other countries do. There is a link between affordability of a product and its consumption. “If I price my channel for pure subscription, I am not sure if it is a viable business model. A hybrid model works the best,” he explains.
In terms of cost, he noted that in the past two to three years content investments have doubled. The rupee depreciation is a pressure.
As reported earlier by TelevisionPost.com, Sony Le Plex HD has roped in Hindi movie writer, director Zoya Akhtar as the community ambassador.
Yagnik points that while Akhtar represents contemporary filmmaking, she is also relatable. “We needed a person who could help create buzz. She was a logical choice. She is a great filmmaker and loves movies. She will talk about premieres. There will also be some wraparound content. Sony Le Plex HD is looking to find the common in the uncommon. A great brand is created when disconnected people form a community around it. Zoya is a credible face.”
Akhtar said that she liked what the channel was doing in terms of the line-up. “Sony approached me and said that they wanted to create a community of movie lovers. I was blown away by their intent. They thought out intelligent programming. Great movies and great storytelling is what I chase, and this is exactly what Sony Le Plex HD has to offer. It is that perfect space where movie lovers including me can interact with each other over their favourite Hollywood movies. Sony Le Plex HD has an exhaustive list of quality and acclaimed films and the top three that come to my mind are ‘Foxcatcher’, ‘Spotlight’ and ‘Ex Machina’. I am glad to be the community ambassador for Sony Le Plex HD and co-create this community of people like me who simply love watching good movies. It is indeed the perfect hangout for all movie lovers.”
Argentinian agency Medialuna created the channel packaging. Leo Burnett worked on the creatives.