Animax bids for fast lift-off; Irfan brand ambassador

MUMBAI: The Animax South Asia service, the third in the channel's regional expansions since the beginning of 2004, was heralded in India today with a champagne toast raised by SET India CEO Kunal Dasgupta.

Touted as the first ever 24/7 animation channel catering to all age groups in the region, Animax in India is being endorsed by teen cricket heart throb Irfan Pathan, who will promote the channel on air, online and at various ground events. An animated version of Irfan pushing the channel's shows and characters later in the year can also not be ruled out.

According to SET Discovery president Shantonu Aditya, distribution deals have already been secured in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, and the One Alliance, which promotes Animax, will ensure an initial reach of 16 million households in the coming few weeks.

Animax, which first launched in Japan in 1998, (the same year that Sony launched Max, the cricket and movies channel), is an unknown genre for SET India, said Dasgupta, but promised that the channel had enough exotic fare to keep Indian youth engaged. Pointing out that nearly 46 per cent of India's cable and satellite population was in the 20 - 24 year demographic, SET executive vice president, sales and revenue, Rohit Gupta said the brands who are looking at innovative ways of targeting this youth segment would find an effective ally in Animax.

Animax is currently available in English with a four-hour block targeting kids also available in Hindi. The 24-hour Hindi feed is expected to be launched by April 2005.

While Animax Asia launched in January 2004, it is now available in 5.6 million homes in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia. From July, the Animax feed will be made available in Maldives and Vietnam as well.

Apart from characters like Astro Boy and Princess Sarah which will be promoted heavily on air, Animax is developing two original characters Quu and Tee, who will be channel emblems, says Todd Miller, Sony Pictures Television International senior V-P and MD, international networks, Asia.

There are three prime time blocks catering to viewers of different ages - the Kids Hour from 3 to 7 pm, the Youth Hour from 7 to 9 pm, the Mega Zone from 9 to 11 pm and Weekend Anime.

Irfan, the 19 year old cricket sensation, was chosen by the channel after a dip stick survey showed him as a popular, yet unexploited teen icon who could identify with the brand image of Animax, says assistant vice-president, marketing and sales, Rohit Bhandari.

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