MUMBAI: The other day, we reported about Star Network's soon-to-be-launched
channel, Star World Premier HD, which promises all the latest
shows, close to their first US telecast.
However, there's at least one other English entertainment
channel which claims to be already doing what Star is now
planning to do.
We're talking about AXN, which maintains it has been thoroughly
researching what Indian audiences want to watch for the past
one year. It was last year when the channel lured a former
Sony Entertainment Television professional Sunil Punjabi from
Cinemax as business head to help build a stronger brand in
the Indian context. Prior to that, AXN was run out of its
regional Singapore office.
And Punjabi has since been working on a blue print, studying
Indian viewing habits with the intention of fine-tuning AXN's
Indian programming accordingly.
Says a media observer: "With the spread of the broadband
internet and availability of current US and international
shows online freely and the fact that an increasing number
of Indians are travelling internationally, Indian viewers
have been spoilt for choice and want to be one with international
TV programming and lifestyle trends."
AXN's research also apparently reflected this. And thus was
born its new premise.
Elaborates Punjabi: "People want to watch shows which
are airing currently closer to their airing in the US and
in the last one year, we have been doing this consistently
- adding shows closer to their telecast in the US."
Sunil Punjabi beleives that new shows will help the channel build loyal as well as 'snacky' fan base
AXN, which has been around for over 15 years, is therefore
adding a host of new shows to strengthen its three programming
pillars: soaps, reality shows and films.
So what about Star's upcoming channel? "To be frank,
we experimented with the same proposition long back that Star
is now offering," quips Punjabi, pointing out that it
would be alluring to a much smaller bunch of viewers.
As compared to Star World Premier HD which is priced at Rs
60 on Tata Sky, AXN is carrying a slimmer price tag of Rs
25. Additionally, the former, says Punjabi, is only available
right now on a la carte basis whereas AXN is available in
packages too. Besides, he believes AXN also has the first
Among the new offerings, AXN has already launched the End
of the World (EOW) series comprising six four-hour-long installments
which is airing Monday to Thursday. Whereas, Voice 5 - a singing
talent hunt - will be launched within three days of its US
premiere on 28 September and Supernatural (Season 9) within
two days of its US debut 11 October onwards.
Meanwhile, Top Gear and The Hero will be telecast on 18 October
and Sherlock and So you think you can dance? will premiere
during Diwali. Orphan Black, a thriller about human cloning
will also premiere around the same time.
On the subject of Supernatural - one of AXN's biggest franchises
viewed by teens, especially girls and NCSI - which caters
to a gender-neutral and more mature audience, Punjabi says:
"We have a mix of content; hence, we don't focus on any
particular gender. There is something for everyone."
The channel has its loyal set of fans but also wants to create
entertainment for its 'snacky' viewers. "With the new
series including Hannibal and Supernatural that have seasons,
we are building on the loyal fan base, while the new reality
shows are for these viewers who snack more on such fare,"
Currently, AXN airs currently running US shows on Fridays,
while movies and reality shows are aired on weekends. With
the English movie genre being bigger, the channel wants to
concentrate on that as well.
But has the AXN team been making a noise about these new
shows? Apparently, it's a 360 degree focus with print, television,
outdoor and digital as key elements. Last year, AXN's Facebook
page had a few thousand likes; this year, it has swelled to
nearly 1.3 million.
"The digital front is important to us and we are aggressively
strengthening the platform. Because it is one of the primary
drivers of conversation related to the channel and shows.
Also, we want to show newer content online," says Punjabi.
While AXN may claim it has been working at refreshing its
programming long before Star announced plans of launching
its niche new channel, it is now up to the audience to decide
which of the two is really walking the talk.