interview with Sony Pictures Television Networks Asia
executive VP, GM Ricky Ow
is the biggest market in which SPT Networks, Asia
on 23 August 2012
Network has recently created a new position to focus
in its biggest growth market. Sunil Punjabi has been
appointed as the business head and will be handling
AXN and Animax in India.
will lead the team in developing the go-to-market strategy
for new channels as well as oversee the development,
acquisition and production of a content mix for SPTs
networks in India. He is also charged with driving marketing
strategies to grow the channel brands and to pursue
further distribution opportunities.
an interview with Indiantelevision.com's Ashwin
Sony Pictures Television Networks Asia executive VP,
GM Ricky Ow talks about the growth prospects, particularly
as India enters the digitisation era.
Q. Has India become more of a priority market for SPT
Networks Asia in the wake of an economic slowdown which
has affected other Asian markets more like Japan and
While we are not able to discuss matters relating
to revenue, India is the biggest market in which SPT
Networks, Asia (AXN, Animax) operates. So India has
always been a high priority market for us as evidenced
from the fact that we have always had a dedicated service
for India that has enabled us to programme, schedule
and promote differently from the rest of Asia and be
more relevant to our Indian viewers. The fact that India
is still expected to see an economic growth, between
5.5. 6.5 per cent this year only serves to reinforce
the importance of the market.
Q. So is India gaining importance in terms of business
Our key focus this year is to really understand
the evolving Indian consumer. Weve been doing
business in India for 15 years now and there have been
some dramatic changes in India
be it the rise
of consumerism or media consumption behaviour.
year weve invested in research and made a big
effort to understand the change in the Indian viewers
in the context of the rapid changes in the Indian pay
TV landscape with digitisation and the huge increase
in new players entering the market.
Q. What does the research show so far as AXN is concerned?
The AXN brand is still extremely strong among consumers.
With increasing competition in the English General Entertainment
television space, we believe the key to success is to
really understand what the viewers want. Listening carefully
to what the viewers have told us, weve found that
they prefer an AXN that sticks closely to the original
high energy, thrilling entertainment formula.
we have kept this in mind as we programme, schedule
and promote the channel, which has helped us maintain
AXNs position as the No.1 English General Entertainment
channel in India despite the tremendous competition.
Q. Is that why AXN Network has created a new position
and appointed a business head to run the India operations?
Yes, we have appointed Sunil Punjabi to lead the Indian
operations for AXN and Animax in India. We and our partner
Multi Screen Media believe that our business in India
deserves more resources and have, thus, expanded the
team to capitalise on growth opportunities in India.
and our partner Multi Screen Media believe that
our business in India deserves more resources
and have, thus, expanded the team to capitalise
on growth opportunities in India'
Q. In India we are seeing more players entering the
English entertainment space due to anticipation of digitisation.
How will this impact viewership?
India is a huge market with the biggest English
speaking population in the whole of Asia. AXN being
the number one English GE channel in Asia and India
for the last 15 years has not been an easy task. There
has always been competition and the future may bring
even more competition but it is certainly not a stranger
will offer the consumers more choices not only in the
number of channels but also in the quality of their
viewing experience which was not possible with the current
analogue system. We are already seeing some of the impact
of digitisation in some of the semi-digitised metros
like Mumbai and Delhi where viewers are spending more
time with the genres of their choice as well as heading
straight to their favourite channels rather than having
to surf through channels to get to their final destination.
a fully digitised world channel brand recognition and
what they stand for will become paramount. Fortunately
the AXN brand is still very much loved in India and
we have become synonymous with the action genre which
continues to be extremely popular in India.
Q. Are you strengthening your localisation strategy?
Asia and India-specific production initiatives
like 'Amazing Race Asia', 'Cyril Family Vacation' and
'Indias Minute to Win It' are an important part
of our localisation strategy that helps us to not only
differentiate ourselves from other channels but also
build a stronger connection with our viewers.
were not relying on acquisition alone for tent
pole programming. Our original productions enable us
to have better control of our own fate, the relationship
we have with our viewers and key stakeholders and partners.
Are content costs escalating with more demand for content
and how do you judge whether or not a property is worth
an increase in price?
The English space in India has been very hot in the
last 18 months and that will in general drive up prices.
That being said, we continue to offer some of the best
entertainment shows that viewers want, including the
'CSI' franchise, 'NCIS LA', 'Supernatural', 'The Voice',
'So You Think You Can Dance', 'The Amazing Race', while
also producing our own shows like 'The Firm' and our
next upcoming major production, 'Hannibal'.
Q. AXN Beyond was re-branded as beTV across Asia. What
prompted this move?
While AXN is doing well across region, outside India
we also have two other successful brands -- beTV and
Sony Entertainment Television (in English). SET offers
wickedly juicy entertainment that appeals to the modern
was previously AXN Beyond. A very well focused channel
dedicated to fans of sci-fi, paranormal and horror programming.
made the strategic decision to rebrand AXN Beyond because
we wanted to build a mainstream English entertainment
channel that appeals to a wider audience. One that can
be a complementary and companion channel to AXN and
allowing us to offer a more complete portfolio of English
entertainment channels. beTV thus offers easy viewing
and engaging entertainment, a place for viewers to chill
and unwind much like their favourite hang-out café
or hang-out joint.
Q. Are you launching this channel in India or are you
waiting for digitisation to take concrete shape?
We are always looking for opportunity to launch
these brands in India and it is not appropriate for
me to talk about this yet.
Q. How is SPT Networks Asia leveraging HD and 3D and
how do you see them enhancing the TV viewing experience?
AXN is already available in HD in every market
except Taiwan and India. Eventually we will be shifting
our service to HD for these two important markets as
distribution in India is much wider than the top 10
key cities, so the plan to roll out HD is a massive
effort for us. In the US, Sony Corporation together
with Discovery Communications and Imax Corporation has
launched the worlds first and only 3D channel
us, the key for launching HD and 3D is finding the right
timing and formula that works for us.
Has the pay TV business across Asia been hit by the
slowdown or are consumers still willing to pay a good
price if they see value?
From our experience, we have found that the consumer
is actually more willing to pay for pay TV services
in challenging times. It offers affordable entertainment
at home for the whole family instead of spending a lot
more money when a family goes outside the home for entertainment.
have also continued to see growth in our advertising
business as pay TV is one of the more cost effective
advertising mediums for marketers. AXN not only provides
a quality environment that enhances advertisers
brand image but also appeals to and reaches a very desired
audience the SEC A and SEC AB. Our audience is
less affected by the economic crisis and continues to
have considerable spending power, which is why it is
important for marketers to continue investing with us.
Q. In the US, new media is seeing people spending more
time watching shows online rather than on the TV channels.
Is this a challenge you are starting to face in India
While we are seeing an increase of online viewing,
both illegal and legal, we also expect to see an increase
in both time spent viewing and reach of pay TV as pay
TV penetration continues to grow in many markets across
Asia including India.
good news for advertisers is that pay TV, in spite of
the wide choice available, is still less fragmented
than the Internet and offers a well targeted, distinct
brand environment for marketers to select. Pay TV brands
command loyalty amongst viewer who have been relying
on pay TV brands for the past 15 to 20 years and we
believe they will continue to do so especially as shared
family viewing still continues to be an integral part
of many Asian and Indian viewers lifestyle.
In India there is a debate over the current ratings
system. Do you face a similar conundrum in other Asian
countries and do you feel it is better to have a two
agency system or is one better?
In the Philippines and Korea, there are two ratings
systems operated by AGB Nielsen and Kantar/TNS in both
markets. Ideally, we would prefer to have a single ratings
system so that all parties are working on the same currency.
Apart from TV ratings, what other research tools does
SPE Networks Asia use to judge how AXN and the other
channels are performing?
Apart from subscribing to ratings data, we also
invest in our own in depth customised viewer surveys
which are usually more qualitative in nature to judge
how we are performing and get a more accurate sense
on the pulse of evolving viewer trends.
some markets, we are starting to see pay TV platforms
looking into return path data systems to gain greater
viewing information for the pay TV channels offered
on their service. Such information is particularly helpful
for the more unique content channels.
Q. For niche channels ratings often don't reflect the
complete picture. So does AXN's perception become very
important among the advertising community and has this
perception changed over the past few years?
Unlike broad local general entertainment channels
which appeal to a much broader mass audience, unique
content channels such as AXN have been successful because
we offer a unique brand personality, a premium environment
and audience that marketers seek.
the entrance of more new players in the English GE space
in India, there is an even greater importance in having
a distinct brand identity both from the viewers as well
as from the marketers perspective. In spite of the increased
competition, AXN continues to be the preferred destination
for top notched quality thrilling entertainment and
the perception of the channel has been influenced by
strong ratings performance that has kept AXN as the
No.1 English GE channel amongst SEC A and SEC AB audiences.
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