Max makes Hindi movies, cricket its signature theme

A point that was emphasised more than once at the recently concluded FICCI-Frames 2001 convention in Mumbai was that 80 per cent of programming on Indian television centred around the film industry.

Working on this as well as India's love with all things cricketing, Max, part of the Sony Entertainment Television bouquet, yesterday announced a new signature for the channel - "Where your Heroes Belong". Max will be where "the world of Hindi cinema and cricket share a common platform," Kacon Sethi, executive vice-president and general manager - Max, said.

Included in the package that make up the new-look channel are a host of new film-based shows, Sethi said, stressing that Sony saw Max as its channel driver and not as an appendage of SET. This could be seen from the kind of effort and investment that was being devoted to Max, Sethi said.

Max is looking at selling itself in a much more aggressive manner in the coming months, Sethi asserted. It is also planning at increasing its subscription rates by between 30 and 40 per cent before the year is out, according to her.

The channel hopes to hit the jackpot with the rights for recent Hindi blockbusters like Mohabbatein, Kaho Na Pyaar Hai, Mission Kashmir and Hera Pheri for which it has paid an undisclosed amount. Sony officials in private say a big blockbuster costs an average of Rs 50 million. Sony is reported to have paid Rs 150 million for the library of films made by top producer-director Yash Chopra.

On the cricket front, Sethi said Max had 33 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and 18 Tests lined up giving a total of 123 days of live action. Included in the roster is an upcoming three-ODI "masala" series Sony has organised in Mumbai which pits left-handed international cricketers against right-handed ones.

Other than that, cricket featuring India will be seen on Max only in August and September when Sri Lanka plays host to India for a three-Test series in August, to be followed by a ODI tri-series which includes New Zealand.

In terms of revenue this is significant. Sethi said if India had not pulled out of the recently held Sharjah tourney, Sony expected revenues in the region of Rs 300 million. A seven-match international ODI series without India could be expected to bring in anything between Rs 70 million to Rs 150 million, Sethi said. When asked how much the Sharjah series earned, she would only say the figure was in the mid-range.

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