‘We want to become the category leaders again’

Q&A with Ajay Trigunayat, CEO, English Entertainment Channels, Times Television Network, on Movies Now's showing

‘We want to become the category leaders again’

It’s been two years since Movies Now’s launch. Would you say this year, the channel’s performance is better than last year’s?

This year we have done better in revenue terms. In terms of viewership, 2011 was much better as we were the category leaders for the first eight months by a huge margin. Our share, at that point in time, was 34 per cent (CS 15 to 34, SEC AB, 8 metros) while our closest rival, Star Movies, were at 24 per cent. Sony Pix’s share was 16 per cent and HBO’s 14 per cent. However, when Star Movies premiered Avatar and played it repeatedly, it increased its share to about 32 per cent and we were struggling at 26 per cent. Sony Pix and HBO dropped one per cent each.

If you look at the market scenario now, it’s quite different. We do not have a (clear) category leader. In the CS 15+ market, we lead by 2 per cent, but in the CS 15 to 34 market, it is Star Movies that lead by 2 per cent. HBO has clearly taken the number three position in the category with 17 per cent share, while Sony Pix is at 15.5 per cent. Warner Brothers and Zee Studio put together make for about 11 per cent share. So, everyone is trying very hard. But, that wasn’t the case in 2011. We were the clear leaders and our entry into the market grew the category by 50 per cent.

What does this means in terms of revenues that channels make? Does it have any impact on the business?

Yes, it does. The ad rates have come down for many channels including ours. Star Movies have a better rate though (close to Rs 4,000 per ten-second spot). Currently we’re at Rs 3,500 and we will like to review this once the channel sees a fair increase in viewership.

What was the thought process behind increasing the ad rates by 100 per cent from where the channel started out?

We more than doubled our ad rates. The idea is to really follow the channel’s performance. And, once you have a sustained channel performance, it makes sense to increase your ad rates. We’re clearly the leaders in terms of time-spent in the category. Milward Brown did a study for us, which says Movies Now has actually overshot international benchmarks in terms of the brand awareness and the spontaneous awareness that got generated post the channel’s launch. On social media platforms, we’re the most talked about channel. We have two million fans on Facebook, we’re strong on Twitter and we’re the most searched channel within the category on Google.

Any initiatives to engage with viewers offline via ground events and activations?

We don’t do much of ground events because it reaches out to limited people and doesn’t work out very well in terms of RoI. So we tend to go mass media. We have a value proposition in every market. Currently, we’re running a contest around the ‘Bond Festival’. We’re asking the viewers who they think is the best Bond, and the response so far is fantastic. Around six lakhs responses have already come in and I’m expecting that number to touch 20 lakhs by end of the festival. Next month, we’re doing the Leonardo Dicaprio Festival and early next year we will do the entire Star Wars series.

How is the channel placed now in terms of distribution?

Starting this financial year, we have taken the distribution from the eight metros to one million plus towns. In the next six to eight months, I think we will have a much stronger presence.

What is your strategy as far as acquiring new titles is concerned?

We’re a channel that believes in getting fresh tittles every month. Initially, our repeat ratio was higher than industry standards. We’ve now rectified that. We’re very conscious about it because it hurt us in August and September of 2011 and that was the time when Star Movies was peaking with Avatar.

What’s your target for 2013?

In 2013, we want to increase our share to over 34 per cent. The greater emphasis, however, would be to become the category leaders again. We want our ad rates to increase to Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 per 10-second spot.

You mentioned that the channel has done well in 2012 on the revenue front. What’s been the growth like?

I think we’ve increased our revenues from last year by 60 per cent. Our focus for next year would be to further grow our revenues and that is likely to happen if we’re able to increase our channel share. With focus on content, distribution and marketing, we should be able to achieve that target.

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3 October 2014