Star Movies looking at a 40 per cent ad revenue growth

MUMBAI: Bigger is better! It was a decade ago that Star Movies launched as India's first pay channel. The Rupert Murdoch owned broadcaster is showing no signs of slowing down.

The channel has targeted an ad revenue growth in the

region of 35-40 per cent. Speaking on this Star India senior VP marketing and communication Ajay Vidyasagar said, "We have around 500 brands advertising with us. Some of our major clients include Samsung and Phillips. Each year we go in for a 15 per cent hike in our ad rates. That is important because the cost of movie acquisitions keeps going up. Our aim is to constantly garner 60-70 per cent of the ad revenue chunk for English movie channels."

"We have done initiatives like 'Opening Night' which has

become a trend. Advertisers have derived great value in partnering with us on that. 'Opening Night' was the first time that a viewer saw several minutes of a film prior to its theatrical release. Another initiative that has seen advertisers flock in droves has been our Hinglish films."

"What we have decided to do is showcase 'The Colours of

India' every Thursday at 9 pm for the next few months. We have titles like Mumbai Matinee, Where's The Party Yaar and The Guru. We are currently negotiating for the rights to Bride and Prejudice and expect a decision to be reached on this next month."

Vidyasagar added that the channel never airs more than 2.5 minutes of ads per break. "In fact for our 'Friday Night Premiere' we sometimes air an hour of the film at a stretch in the beginning. This enables the viewer to get hooked and get into the mood. Every hour of programming does not have over ten minutes of ads."

One major programming initiative lined up is 'The Big Two'. This will see the channel air two big premiere movies back to back on one weekend every month. This month Daredevil with Ben Affleck and the Vampire film Underworld will air on 23 and 24 October at 9 PM

Vidyasagar added, "People ask me why we have called this initiative 'The Big Two' when our friends at HBO already have 'The Big One'. The fact is that we are looking to blow up an entire weekend. 'The Big One' only takes care of half the weekend. This initiative helps us optimise the ratings slot. Next month we will air Bad Company with Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock and X Men 2. In January we have Scary Movie 3 and Bruce Almighty."

"Speaking of ratings if you look at Tam data c&s 4+ SEC A,B you will notice that in 2002 we had a 10 per cent lead over HBO in primetime and all day. Last year we extended our primetime lead to 20 per cent. For this year we are confident of maintaining this position. When HBO says it is number one it is looking at a viewer subset (15-44). In my opinion to a degree this is being unfair to the advertiser."

Star Movies is also looking at packaging films that it has already aired in innovative ways. For instance on Monday Nights it will present films of one big superstar. The star will introduce the film before it is aired. This month the channel is showcasing Jackie Chan films like 'Shanghai Nights'. Then there is the $100 million hit on Wednesdays. Here you have films like Shrek and A Beautiful Mind.

"Today if we air Jurassic Park it will get decent ratings despite the fact that it has aired numerous times in the past. Action and creature films are the biggest draws as far as English movies are concerned. Comedies however are static in ratings. That does not mean that we are ignoring them. Our premieres in the coming months include Freaky Friday and Just Married."

In Freaky Friday a mother and daughter played by Jamie

Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan switch bodies. Curtis has a ball in the role as it gives her freedom to let her hair down as it were. Vidyasagar said that the channel would premier around 30 films in a month. Other big premieres in the Friday premiere slot in the coming months include The Human Stain.

Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman star in this adaptation of Phillip Roth's novel. Hopkins' character is a professor of English classical literature who starts a relationship with a janitor played by Kidman. Then there is Seabiscuit, which earlier this year was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. It tells the true story of an underdog racehorse during the depression era in the 1930's.

Vidyasagar further pointed out that for India Star Movies has an exclusive deal for the films of Steven Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan. So The Terminal with Tom Hanks playing an East European stranded at JFK airport in New York should come on board sometime next year.

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