When Sony Pictures Television (SPT) appointed Sunil Punjabi as the business head for AXN, the one line brief given to him was to set up the India office that will oversee all functions of the channel. Prior to his joining, core functions of the channel were handled by the company's Singapore office. Eight months into the journey, Punjabi believes that the channel has progressed well.
Asked about the changes since taking over, Punjabi said, “AXN has always been known as an action-oriented channel. Though its positioning has worked very well over the years, I sensed an opportunity to bring in different sort of content offering, moving away from being a channel that is seen as an only-action channel, to a channel that has a host of different formats. With that thought process, we introduced shows such as ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, ‘The Voice’, and ‘Top Chef’. We also showcase movies, and we continue to offer high-decibel action-oriented shows. Today, we’re a Hindi GEC equivalent channel (in English) where the viewer gets to choose from various forms of content. And that’s the biggest change that has happened in the past six to eight months.”
In the past eight months, the channel also introduced international series like ‘Leverage’, ‘Justified’ and ‘Supernatural’. Punjabi informed that the repeat ratio on the channel too has been reduced considerably. On the content strategy going forward, Punjabi added, “We’ve been able to utilise our global strength of production to bring differentiated content in India. We will continue to do that in the future.” The channel will launch ‘Hannibal’ in the first week of April, and ‘Apprentice Asia’ in May, he explained.
Asked to assesses the channel’s performance in 2012, he said: “2012 was an eventful year for us; a year when the channel saw many ups and downs. From a standpoint of an English general entertainment channel, we’ve done very well. Our reach is very strong in the genre with presence in both analog and digital."
He added, "We’ve always been very strong on distribution. We reach out to almost 95 per cent of the analog market. Though we look at the SEC AB, 8 metros as our core market, our reach is beyond that.” With digitisation, the channel is strengthening ties on ground, especially in tier 2 towns, informed the channel head.
From a scheduling perspective, Punjabi noted that AXN has taken a conscious decision to keep some of its shows closer to their US release, a strategy to combat piracy and prevent its negative impact on viewership in India.