'Older channels’ distribution advantage will go away with digitisation'

Q&A with Saurabh Yagnik, business head, Sony Pix, on plans to bridge the gap between the category leader and his channel in 2013

Jan 22, 2013 02:50:00 PM | Article | Shephali Bhatt Share - Share to Facebook

On 29 November 2012, Saurabh Yagnik assumed his new role as the business head of Sony Pix. Yagnik was previously handling all the English channels for the Star network. In his new role, he aims at changing the channel's positioning and bridge the gap of channel share with that of market leader.

Edited excerpts:

How has digitisation in the three metros reflected on Sony Pix's viewership numbers?
Digitisation has certainly benefitted the English movie channel category. It has resulted in incremental GRPs for all the channels. Pre-digitisation, the entire category garnered 1.8 GRPs. This number has risen by 42 per cent, to 2.58 GRPs. Pix' (digitized) share in all India market has been around 18 per cent per four weeks on an average. We have had a 30 per cent growth in the category post digitisation (All India 15 to 44 years, Sec A, B, all day).
How do the latest numbers look like?
We were at a 19.5 per cent channel share last week while Star Movies was at around 19.8, with HBO at  21. But this isn't the absolute share, this only reflects our digital share. And there's just 1 to 2 per cent of difference between all the players there. Older channels have a distribution advantage. This will go away with digitisation.
What does your SWOT analysis tell you about the strengths of Sony Pix? 
Pix enjoys the strong pedigree that comes along with the 'Sony' tag. It has an appealing look and feel to it as a channel and it competes with the best of the brands in the category. We have latest titles coming in from Sony Pictures like 2012, Men In Black series, The Adventures of Tin Tin, Spiderman series and many more. A high quality library and various tie ups with major studios ensures a deeper and wider offering.
What are the challenges you have marked out?
While we have great content, we get this feedback that the consumer views the channel as a classic English movie channel than a contemporary one. The manner in which the channel was launched, signaled that the channel will air old classics or movies with critical action. A lot of that is not true anymore. Therefore, we need to contemporarise the way we position the channel. This will involve properly articulating what's on the table for the viewer. Like I said, with digitisation we'll get rid of the handicap of distribution issues. And that's when content will be the real differentiator in the market.
When Sony Pix was launched, it used to air sports content like NBA and FA Cup. Would that continue in the presence of a separate sport channel within the network (Sony Six)?
No. Sony Pix will be a pristine Hollywood movies channel. It won't have any sport content.
You are launching a series on the channel on 25 January. Tell us more about the series and its launch campaign.
We are launching ‘Transporter: The Series’ which has excellent production values because it's made by the same team that made the movie. It won't star Jason Statham. Chris Vance will play the lead role. It is a 12-part series that will air from Friday to Sunday. It will ensure that men are glued to the TV around that time, hence the launch campaign – ‘Sorry Girls’. The campaign is handled by our digital agency Windchimes while the viral promotional videos have been created inhouse. The engagement via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has had a positive feedback so far. We will soon target the ambient medium for marketing as we near the launch date.
Does this signal inclusion of more series in the content mix?
The essence of Transporter is that it is closely associated with a popular Hollywood movie. That's where it finds a perfect connect with Pix' positioning as well. We don't mind getting more series in future but it has to have a fit with the channel.
While your YouTube channel is constantly updated, the videos, which are mostly movie trailers, get an average of 100 hits most often. How do you plan to improve that number?
The YouTube channel is meant to grow viewership because alternate screens are a reality today. They were a reality two years ago as well. Today, approximately 88 per cent of India has single TV households. Youngsters have a tendency to go to alternate screens in such a scenario. And we would want to offer more content than just movie trailers on these alternate screens like YouTube. But a lot of issues need to be tackled before we do that.
Could you cite those issues in detail?
To begin with, Sony Pix' content is licensed and comes with prohibitive rights for alternate means of consumption. Another challenge is how to crack a business model. Ads on YouTube won't justify the cost. But the end path is YouTube and we are working towards how to get there.
You have a Sony Pix Movie Club on Facebook. How does it function?
The group was created to connect with movie buffs across Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru; to create conversations around latest Hollywood releases and thus engage with fans while we provide them a platform to share their thoughts. This has also helped us in establishing the channel's proposition - of being more contemporary than what it is deemed to be.
Lastly, what's on the agenda for 2013?
We have two big premieres lined up - Men In Black-3 and Spiderman-4. From a network perspective, we have a clear brief that we ought to be in the space of being the No.1 or 2 channel in the category. We look to achieving it going forward. The numbers will scale up post digitisation and the brand perception change we are aiming at. We are not targeting non-metros as yet. The leader in the category in metros has an average of 24 per cent channel share. We are at 16.5 per cent. We want to bridge that gap.



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