AXN aims to boost ratings by giving the CIA an image makeover

AXN's strategy is clear-cut. Build up the action brand through the introduction of innovative programming that caters to both the serious viewer as well as the one who is looking for an escape through adventure. To this end, the channel announced the launch of The Agency. The show on the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'s working commences on 2 April at 8 pm and will repeat Wednesdays at 1 pm and 10 pm.

AXN senior marketing manager Rohit Bhandari expressed satisfaction at the way new programmes like Fear Factor and Scariest Places In The World have been faring on the channel since their launch earlier in the year.

On the flip side, Bhandari said that animation series on the channel have not struck a chord with Indian audiences, chiefly because the shows target the 15-21 year age group. In India however animation is perceived to be meant for those in the five to 10 age bracket.

He also said that one of the channel's major properties of the year was World Stunt Awards. The event is scheduled to take place on 19 May in the US and is being developed by the channel in conjunction with US network ABC.

Bhandari said the channel would continue building the brand through alliances with action-oriented movies released in theatres. AXN promotes films not only from the Sony stables but also other film companies like Twentieth Century Fox, Bhandari said. The two parties promoted the war film Behind Enemy Lines and will team up again for Ali with Oscar-nominated Will Smith in the title role.

The channel is planning to have a multi discipline adventure race towards the end of the year. Targeted at corporate executives who work long hours the event will see disciplines like rock climbing and swimming taking place over the weekend.

Speaking about The Agency, Bhandari said the idea is to change the perception people have about the CIA. That the stories bear more than a passing resemblance to real life goings on can be gauged by the fact that the pilot episode about Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network planning to bomb the famous department store Harrods in London was dropped after the events of 11 September. Interestingly, the pilot was made in May lending credence to the belief that the CIA was well aware of the threat the terrorist outfit posed to America and anyone who allied itself to the country.

"Drama series like The Agency are peerless and are what water cooler conversations are all about," Bhandari said.

Apart from The Agency another new show which will commence is called Queen of Swords from 4 April at 8 pm. The title character Tessa Alvorado could be considered a female Zorro. Like her male counterpart she is an expert in the art of sword fighting. The second season of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) starts on 1 April at 8 pm.

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