Television

"HBO has helped improve the quality of movies shown on television" : James Paul Marturano Executive vice president of HBO South Asia

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James Paul Marturano is the executive vice president, HBO Asia and managing director of HBO South Asia. As executive VP of HBO Asia, Marturano heads the sales and marketing division and also looks after the business development for the company. He is responsible for managing the operations of the new HBO venture in South Asia that spans India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives.

 

Beginning his tenure with HBO in 1986, Marturano relocated to Singapore in October 1991 as director, international operations, and was responsible for overseeing the developmental work for the HBO Asia Project. He was promoted to vice-president, sales and marketing in April 1992 and as senior vice-president, sales and marketing, for HBO Asia in January 1997, overseeing the distribution and marketing of HBO and CINEMAX throughout Asia. He unveils his plans for the channel in India in an interview with indiantelevision.com.

HBO Original movies are well known as award winning productions. Why was there such a long wait before deciding to go ahead with showcasing these films? One would have thought such movies would be something worth trumpeting?



As a matter of fact, we have showcased HBO Originals in the past two years. We have premiered movies like Earthly Possessions, From the Earth to the Moon and towards the latter half of the year we got Band Of Brothers, which is the most expensive original production of HBO to date and the biggest television series ever. As a channel, we are known for our strength and width of programming and as part of our programming strategy, we decided to concentrate on HBO Original programming in a big way this year.

 "Strong programming, from the best Hollywood blockbuster movies to innovative Original programmes is at the core of our continuing growth and success in satisfying current viewers and attracting new ones."

Till now, Hallmark is the channel that is known to showcase original programming. And the comment among TV executives has been that in India, movie viewing is title driven. Has there been any change in thinking on this?



While other channels do show original programming, HBO, globally, has set a benchmark in showcasing Original programming, as these are exceptionally high standard, award winning productions, with star-studded casts that are exclusive to the channel. Our shows have a compelling point of view and mostly deal with true stories based on human conditions. Under HBO films, the network is producing a broad slate of Original movies, from smaller-budget independents to major motion pictures, touching on a wide range of provocative and entertaining subjects and characteristics that have become the hallmark of HBO?s original movies.





While the movie market may be primarily title driven, programming like concerts, series, etc are value adds that in my opinion, complete a channel and as far as we are concerned, HBO is indeed a complete channel when it comes to Hollywood entertainment as we have it all - big titles, the best of Hollywood movies, HBO Original programming, series, concerts, innovative stunts etc.





The fact that you will be showing just one film a month seems to indicate that you are testing the waters to gauge viewer response before maybe increasing the frequency and pace with which you bring HBO original programming to these parts. Is this true?



No, this is not true - while we do have the HBO Original movies, premiering exclusively on HBO on the first Monday of every month but that is because we have a lot to offer to our viewers this season. In our summer special, other than the HBO Original Movies, HBO has a big treat for its viewers from special stunts like Boogie Nights, Toonland, Summer Action Marathon, to HBO Special concerts and Blockbuster movies like Striptease, The Ransom, The Deep End of the Ocean, among others.



In fact in September, the HBO Original Movies will culminate in a block, which will be the HBO Original Movie-Emmys stunt. HBO?s strong programming, from the best Hollywood blockbuster movies to innovative Original programmes is at the core of its continuing growth and its success in satisfying current viewers and attracting new ones.

 "HBO set the trend by bringing in The Mummy at the beginning of the year, which received unprecedented television ratings."



Will you be bringing any of HBO?s award winning television series to India?



HBO Original productions are a strong differentiator for the channel to create extra value for our viewers since these are programmes that premiere exclusively on HBO channel, and are not released theatrically. Last year, we got series like The Street and Band Of Brothers, going forward we have a whole lot of award winning movies and series in our inventory, the talks are on but we will only be able to announce something closer to launch date.



Post-Oscars and after the two Jurassic Park airings, Star Movies seems to have taken away a lot of the thunder from HBO. Does HBO have any big-ticket offerings of its own lined up in the near future?



Last year, we got the latest and the biggest blockbuster movies that received very high ratings like Stuart Little, Matrix, Godzilla, Twister? This year too, HBO set the trend by bringing in The Mummy at the beginning of the year, which received unprecedented television ratings.



There is no excitement if competition doesn?t react at all. HBO?s launch has helped in improving the quality of movies that are shown on television. ? and at the end of it all viewers get to benefit from it the most - which certainly is a good thing.



HBO is known for its strength and quality of programming. Going forward, we have a great programming line up that we have to offer our viewers but the announcements can only be made closer to date.



There is a mention regarding the summer specials that there will be a U2 concert telecast live. You had done a Madonna concert live earlier. Overall how have these music concerts been received as far as viewers go? How did the Madonna concert do?



To add value, as part of quality programming inputs HBO has brought for its viewers some of the most popular music stars concerts like Bon Jovi, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and the biggest of all, the sold out event of the year The Madonna Concert, which was her first TV Concert in eight years and HBO was the only place on television one could get to see it first. The 8-Grammy awards winner U2 in ??The Elevation Tour?? where they perform their Grammy winning album, ?All that you can?t leave behind? is the most recent one. The concerts that we get on HBO are exclusive which is what makes the difference. These have been well received by the audiences so far.



Will this year also see four concerts like last year? Is there any particular strategic benefit of such concerts for the channel?



For this year we have Westlife in the month of May, U2 in June and N?Sync in July. These concerts are like the proverbial "icing on the cake?? for the channel. While our core focus is on the big titles and best of Hollywood films, we have also come up with innovative programming like the stunts, series, Original programming and concerts. All these are pure "value-adds?? for the channel.

As part of the summer specials what sort of promotional activities are being developed?



In May, there is something special happening every day of the week on HBO. We have a Summer Special marketing campaign planned for the season. The marketing campaign involves a press campaign, ads in top theatres in all metros, a high impact radio campaign in key metros that has a different ad on each day of the week announcing the stunt for that day of the week. Apart from this we are also active on the net thru? AgencyFaqs.com and will also be tying up with a few pubs to promote the concerts.

How far have you gone as far as distribution is concerned? What are your India viewership numbers?



The latest figures for this year are 15 million households up from 10 million households last year

How far have you been successful in your effort to spread the channel outside the metros?



Well, now that we are into our second year of operation in India and have increased our reach to 15 million households we have spread not only in depth of coverage, but also in width. With this increase we are now well-entrenched in mini metros and big towns as well.

In the tight advertising market, how has HBO done in the year gone by compared to the previous year? In terms of revenues what is the break up between advertising and subscriptions? Any advertising targets for the year ahead?



Our performance in terms of the revenues that we have generated in the past has far exceeded our expectations. I am happy to say that the buoyant trend continues on the channel, in terms of sponsors, advertising time. As a policy we don?t give out any numbers but we have a balanced break up between both ad and subscription revenues.

Looking at Asia operations as a whole, what percentage of revenues does India bring in?



This is the tenth year that we?ve been in Asia and have barely entered India a year and a half back. We have had an extremely positive start and would like to add that India is very significant from the Asian perspective.

Last year you had said in an interview that it would take five to ten years before you can say you were doing great business. Is that still your assessment?



Our performance so far has exceeded our expectations and all I can say at this point in time is that we are right on track.

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