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Times Television Network’s plan to grow its English channel biz

MUMBAI: Last year was a time of change for Times Television Network’s English channel business. Senior members of the team moved on. In October 2014, the company hired Vivek Srivastava as senior VP and head of the English entertainment cluster. This was followed by more senior-level additions including Sonal Khanduja as VP of programming.

vivek-srivastava-colorsThe results, so far, have been telling. The viewership has improved and Srivastava claims that Movies Now and Romedy Now have been leading in their categories for the past several weeks.

Srivastava attributes the improved performance of the channels to a few factors such as more aggression on the content front, better segmentation in terms of time slots, and a focused effort on distribution by going beyond just the eight metros. “We have become aggressive on the content acquisition front. Earlier we had two output deals with Warner and Fox. Now we have added second output deals with Sony and NBC Universal. We have four studios.”

Wolf of Wall StreetPremieres: One thing that Movies Now will do is to have more premieres. “We had a few premieres last year like ‘Rush’. This year we will have a film premiere almost every month. These include ‘Fury’, ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, and ‘Chef.’ Movies Now’s focus is on delivering an adrenalin rush, which could be through action or a high-impact comedy, or through a thriller. Hence, ‘Ted’, ‘The Hangover’, and ‘The Transporter’ can each have a similar impact,” Srivastava said.

According to Srivastava, 75 per cent of Movies Now’s viewership is coming from the eight metros. “I don’t see the balance changing in the short term. Among the metros, Mumbai and Delhi contribute the most to viewership.”

Segmentation: Besides content and distribution, the channel has also focused on segmentation. “English movies are about smart acquisition, smart segmentation, and smart scheduling. Once you have content and distribution in place, then it is about scheduling and segmenting in the right fashion. We segmented viewership according to the time bands. For Movies Now, we focus not just on the 9 pm and 11 pm slots, but also on the 11 am, 1 pm and the 6–9 pm early primetime slot.

“We have our benchmarks on all the bands. If a slot is under-performing, then we make sure that the slot is accorded promotion and title buzz. It is about viewer habit building for a particular slot. As long as we can build habit in a particular slot, the numbers will go up,” he adds.

The HangoverIn terms of the science of scheduling, the strategy revolves around who is most likely to tune in. “Lighter movies like ‘The Hangover’ work slightly better in the mornings. 1 pm is youth centric as the 15–24 TG is accessible then. Early primetime is not very different from primetime and it is important as it leads into primetime. Horror works better at 11 pm.”

Romedy Now, Srivastava notes, is the only channel whose positioning is the happiest place on television. “We have an equal focus on both shows and movies. We do not try to keep a deliberate balance between the two. Whichever film or show fits the brand philosophy will air.”

He adds that Romedy Now’s segmentation helps it fight the challenge of channel blindness. “When people come to the channel, they know what they will get. It also helps if you have output deals, which means that certain titles are not going to be available elsewhere. In the past, movies that played on Movies Now delivered better ratings than when they played elsewhere. This testifies to the image of the channel.”

Marketing: In terms of marketing, the two channels will become more aggressive in the days to come. Srivastava explains that marketing is done on two levels—a mass level and a weekly or daily level of viewer engagement. “The bigger premieres will help us market Movies Now better. Premieres are needed from a marketing standpoint. It adds sheen to the channel but our library will continue to be very important. Premieres were one thing that was missing from our mix.

“We will use digital platforms to take engagement to a higher level. There is no point in just having fans. We have an all-round plan.”

100 ManiaSometimes properties are created to create buzz for a slot. An example of this is ‘100 Mania’ done by Movies Now in the 9 pm slot. “We needed more action around this slot. This has worked very well for us and the reach and time spent in this slot has grown in the last few weeks,” he says by way of illustration.

Mass media will be used more intensely to market the two channels in the 1 million+ towns and cities. This is because the reach of digital mediums is still limited. “Non-metros cannot be ignored. These markets will grow in the coming three to five years.”

With 1,000–1,200 movies, the library strength has grown exponentially. “The duplication of titles between Movies Now and Romedy Now is not much as they are sharply segmented products. They have separate libraries. Very few titles will air on both the channels,” Srivastava explains.

HD for discerning viewers: Talking about the network’s HD offering called Movies Now+, Srivastava says, “Movies Now+ is available on HD platforms. It caters to a discerning audience. Its scheduling is different from Movies Now. It has a different set of advertisers and carries six minutes of ads in an hour.”