HBO joins the English movie channel bandwagon

Home Box Office (HBO) is all set to launch on 22 March, 2000. The channel which boasts to be the first one on cable television when it started in 1972 claims to be the leader in a lot of areas not only in programming but also technical, promises the viewer a variety of entertainment right from blockbuster hollywood movies to a wide array of entertainment including various shows mini-series and concerts. The channel will follow the self-censorship mode and won't feature "after dark" films.

On gathering eyeballs, Anshuman Misra, Managing Director, Turner International India, says "Content and programming will drive the viewers from our competing channels".

HBO which reaches over 47 million viewers in 45 countries is confident of creating a bang in India. The channel targets the urban and the semi-urban viewers which amounts to 15 million subscribers though the management is uncertain about the time frame to reach such a vast amount of viewers. The initial target is: five million homes in the next six to seven months. The encrypted channel beaming off PanAmSat-4, will remain advertisement free for around six months and thus is not perturbed about the TRPs its programming generates.

The average per subscriber rate is Rs 6.00 but that will differ from one cable operator to another. The Sceintific Atlanta PowerVu decoders are being place with cable operators on payment of a deposit of Rs 10,000.

HBO which lacks distribution network will face a tough task of reaching the desired penetration. A distribution team of 20, along with independent distributors, is working on taking the channel further into urban homes.

Misra expects HBO to contribute two-thirds of Turner's subscription revenues when in full steam. It might well get that, but the channel will have a tough battle on its hands what with Star Movies all the rage and Zee Movies being launched yesterday as a free service. The additional advantage that Zee TV has is that it owns the cable TV netowrk Siticable. The third major rival is the local cable channel - airing pirated English movies - operated by the cable operator for his subscribers.

Misra is not worried however. "Our content will rule," says Misra.

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