HBO scores over Star Movies in Asia Pay TV ops survey

MUMBAI: Star Movies may lay claim to being India's number one movie channel but if one looks at the 2003 Asia Pay Television Operators' Survey, then arch-rival HBO beats it hands down.

When 33 cable operators in the Asian region were asked which channel was considered the most popular and which got the most positive feedback; HBO had a combined share of 62 per cent. Star Plus is way behind at 28 per cent. Star Movies does not feature in the top five at all this year. It came second a couple of years ago. Completing the top five list, this year, are Discovery, ESPN Star Sports (ESS) and Cinema One.

The survey was conducted by industry magazine Television Asia in conjunction with intelligence agency, Fusion Consulting. Pay-TV operators (including MSOs, cable operators and satellite operators) in 16 countries, including India, were interviewed from March to May 2003. The operators interviewed represent the majority of subscribers in each country.

Cable ops were asked to evaluate the channels on programming quality, value for money, sales and marketing support, on-air promotions and channel popularity.

On the programming quality front - with a base of 36 cable ops - HBO received 47 per cent of the vote. Once again, the Murdoch broadcaster Star Plus is way behind in second place with 14 per cent. Star Movies fails to figure in the top five which is a huge drop from its 20 per cent share a couple of years ago. The contrast is even more glaring in the movies category. HBO got 79 per cent of the votes while Star Movies scrambled for crumbs with 10 per cent. The base, here, was increased slightly to 39 ops.

When asked which channel provides the most value for the buck, the Indian cable ops predictably picked Star Plus, which recently scored 50 out of the top 50 programmes as numero uno. It had a 43 per cent share. HBO is placed at number two with 29 per cent. Cable ops appear to perceive HBO as easy to sell. It offers quality movies like Erin Brockovich, which drives the whole bouquet. In India, that would be the One Alliance. Here also Star Movies is absent. The VFM poser was put to a 30-repondent base.

Across Asia though, the 30 respondents gave HBO the number one status at 23 per cent. Taken together Star Movies and Star Plus got the same number. The domination of HBO continues in the sales and marketing support section. It is ranked number one with 36 per cent vote followed by Star at 29 per cent and Disney at seven per cent.

There was also good news for MTV and ESS in the programme quality section. In the music and sports category, they clearly led with shares of 83 per cent and 75 per cent respectively. Bukhatir's Ten Sports had a share of six per cent but of course one has to consider the fact that the channel launched only last year. The sports base was 36 ops while for music it was 32.

In the kids section with a 35-op base, Cartoon Network continued to successfully build up brand equity with a share of 46 per cent. The Disney channel, whose launch has been delayed in India, has a share of 29 per cent. Despite the fact that its content is educative and informative in nature Nickelodeon is struggling to build cachet with the Asian viewer. Its share is 11 per cent.

CNN is ahead of its British counterpart BBC. CNN had a share of 38 per cent while the beeb has a share of 24 per cent. Discovery with a share of 56 per cent has a share that is double that of National Geographic.

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