Star Movies, HBO take ratings fight to Saturday nights

MUMBAI: The fight for eyeballs between Star Movies and HBO has reached another level. And it is the Saturday night slot that has become the place for them to battle it out with big titles.

It is a fact though that Star Movies has some catching up to do. This is because HBO has built a very succesful franchise around it's weekend prime time movies with its Saturday Night premieres and what has been the real success story for the channel this year - The Big One block, which is also showcased in the Saturday 9 pm slot.

It was at the start of the year, that HBO started airing a huge blockbuster once a quarter on Saturdays to give their Saturday Night block a boost. The Big One block kicked off with Spiderman.

The response HBO has garnered from this slot has been so good that in the last quarter it aired two Big Ones - Men In Black II and Spy Game 3: Game Over.

It was in a bid to take this head-on that Star Movies last month unveiled its own weekend block - Exclusive Saturday Premiere. This means that in addition to a new movie on Friday, once a month, on Saturday, viewers can watch another new film. This month the channel will air Shanghai Knights on 17 July at 9 pm. The Saturday night slot was as yet an untapped one on Star Movies

But going by data released by HBO pertaining to the last six months (January to June), it has staked claim to a clear lead in the English movie channel ratings stakes. Quoting TAM (C&S ABC 4+, All India, 1 Jan-26 June), it asserts that 7 out of top 10 titles were HBO films making it the number one English movie channel for the period.

And drawing a direct comparison between its own The Big One and Star Movies' Exclusive Saturday Premiere., HBO says Spy Kids 3: Game Over saw a TVR of 0.86, ahead of Star Movies' Kiss of the Dragon (C&S AB 4+, 6 cities, week 26).

As regards the frequency of The Big One blockbusters, HBO officials say they are undecided as to whether or not to air two Big Ones in each quarter. The next Big One is Rush Hour II which should air sometime next month. The film re-teams Jackie Chan with Chris Tucker. Star Movies, meanwhile, has its own ace up its sleeve in the form of Phone Booth that will also air next month. How these two stack up as regards the ratings should be worth a watch.

It also remains to be seen as to whether HBO will air its miniseries Angels in America later this year. The series has collected 21 nominations for this year's Emmys. It has also not yet finalised a decision as to what original television series it should bring to India after Sex And The City.

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