'Action, reality shows AXN's main ad revenue earners' : Todd Miller Managing Director AXN Asia

Mountain-biker, long-distance runner and traveller - AXN Asia managing director Todd Miller seems to extend the action aspect of the channel he runs to his out-of -office activities as well. Miller oversees AXN's three satellite services AXN South Asia, AXN Taiwan and AXN East Asia. Miller was in Mumbai recently as part of a year-end review of the channel's operations in India.

He spoke to's Thomas Abraham about the channel's plans for the new year.

Shantonu Aditya (distribution and India channel head) in an interview, has been quoted as saying that AXN is looking at 10 to 15 per cent of its content sourced out of India. Have you taken any steps in that direction?

There is no urgency for us to get into Indian content generation. Audience feedback indicates that our viewers are satisfied with what we are offering. At this juncture, our association with India would be sponsoring adventure and lifestyle sports.

The next Ecochallenge is in May. Are you promoting India as a possible destination?

We will not be promoting India as a destination, but we will be trying to put together an Indian team to participate.

Do you propose at any point to make action or adventure serials in India?

No such plans.

Of your action serials, which has been the one most popular in India?

Who Dares Wins has been the show most identified with AXN. Another very popular series was World's Most Amazing Videos.

At one time, it was not very clear as to what was the personality that the channel was trying to project. Have you been able to put a definite fix on that?

What the channel represents is adventure, irreverence. And it particularly appeals to the 20-somethings looking for a buzz.

As far as investment in programme properties is concerned, do movie rights make up the major expense for AXN?

Actually it is the series shows that are our major expense rather than films. Our action and reality shows are also our major ad revenue earners. More than half of our ad revenues come from our action and reality series.

'Sheena improved the profile of the channel. It did well for us from both the trade as well as public perception.'

Have you set yourself any revenue targets for India? What is the percentage while taking Asia as a whole?

I can't discuss figures but we have set ourselves a target 20 to 30 per cent higher than what we achieved last year. Revenuewise, all our Asian satellite feeds contribute equally. (Industry sources indicate that AXN ad revenues for 2001 will not cross Rs 250 million).

Last year, you had brought down Geena Lee Nolin, the lead heroine of Sheena as a major promotional activity. How successful was that as a

branding exercise and do you plan anything else on those lines for the next year?

Sheena improved the profile of the channel. It did well for us from both the trade as well as public perception. As for similar promos for next year, there is nothing decided as yet.

What about your programming? Are you increasing the investments in programming for the next year?

Our programming spends for 2002 will be same as what we pumped in this year. Between January and June, we will be launching many new shows, 12 to be exact, mainly reality and action series. We will be launching two shows on an average every month.

You have South Asia, Taiwan, Japan, and East Asia as your dedicated AXN franchisees in Asia. Do you plan any more?

We have identified a north Asian country for starting a new feed but no time frame has been set.

What of AXN's reach in Asia? It was 22 million in the middle of last year and for India, it was 18 million as per the channel estimate. What are the present figures?

Our reach as far as 24 hour channel presence is concerned, is now 31.5 million for the whole of Asia and 21.6 million for India. We have 23 million viewers in China in a branded block category.

What about the gender break up in India? It was 59:41 earlier. Is it the same even now?

The female viewership has gone up. The ratio now stands at 55:45. Our female viewers are mostly in the 25-44 year age group.

As far as the advertiser is concerned, where do you figure. Which channels are you in direct competition with?

The advertiser looks at all English channels as one stack. And in this, it is Star Movies, HBO and AXN, in that order, that take the maximum revenue. But as far as eyeballs are concerned, our figures give HBO the lead over Star Movies. However, it should be understood that depending on what programmes are on air, this keeps switching around and often AXN shows are on top.

What are your prime time ad rates and in these tough times, how successful have you been as far as filling your inventories goes?

Our prime time ad rates are RS 8 - 10,000 per 10-second spot. And because we are priced competitively, we have had no difficulties filling our inventory.

In an interview given to a financial daily in July 2000, it was declared that 2002 was the break-even target for the channel. How are you positioned on that front?

I don't recollect ever having set such targets but as of now we are looking at breaking even in 2004 or 2005.

At this point, what are your principal challenges in India?

The market continues to be challenging; it's a crowded landscape and there is fierce competition for eyeballs and ad dollars. But as far as 2002 is concerned, we are very

confident and very well positioned. We have had strong distribution growth of 46 per cent in the last year and our viewership has grown 35 per cent which gives us a more than compelling story for advertisers.

We continue to invest in the channel and this is demonstrated by our continued investment in fresh programming.

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