ZMZ on the offensive, acquires 240 films in 3 months

MUMBAI: Zee Movie Zone (ZMZ), thus far a distant third in English movie channel space to fierce rivals HBO and Star Movies, may just be about to give the competition a run for its money. During the period October- December 2004, the channel has quietly gone and bought itself the rights to a whopping 240 films.

In the process, ZMZ looks ready to provide answers to the questions raised in the industry after Zee's English movie channel lost the MGM tagline in its title post the buyout of MGM Studios by Sony Pictures International.

Channel officials claim that out of these; 40 films are high profile premiers while the rest are either smaller titles or repeats. ZMZ business head Ajay Trigunayat is confident that such a strong portfolio of properties will help the channel to translate an increased market share in this segment. Speaking to he said, "We have negotiated deals with Miramax, Paramount and Sony, among other studios. We have The Aviator with us. The Martin Scorcese film will be released theatrically across the country on 19 February and we will air it towards the end of the year.

The Aviator is one of the hot favourites to take top honours at this year's Oscars, to be held later this month. Trigunayat is pegging his hopes on the movie which deals with a reclusive billionaire named Howard Hughes. ZMZ also has the rights to Kill Bill Volume 2. In March the channel will air the Ben Affleck thriller Reindeer Games. Trigunayat also informed that ZMZ has retained the rights to some films it has already aired. "The Silence Of The Lambs for instance is a classic. The repeat value is very high for this film."

However, as the channel starts implementing its new properties, a more pressing issue that it is groping with is its distribution netwok. As of now the channel has not been able to acquire a prime band position. To counter this it has plans to spend the next two to three months in strengthening its distribution network. The channel, in association with Zee Turner, has initiated hectic negotiations with cable operators across the country to position itself on the prime band.

Trigunayat said,"Our efforts in the next couple of months will focus on increasing our reach. While research indicates that people do watch us there are some networks which do not carry us."

"Even if they do carry us we are not on the right band. So technically, while we are available in 18 million homes, there are issues we are trying to sort out with cable operators across the country," he opined.

Trigunayat added that work needed to be done on the technical front too. In many areas the channel's reception is not clear. As regards marketing initiatives, Trigunayat said that they would kick-off once the distribution hassles had been sorted out

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