interview with Pix business head Sunder Aaron|
are looking at localising further'
on 8 June 2009|
is lapping up new movies to shed its image of being an English movie channel that
showcases only classic films. Its most prize catch: Oscar-winning movie Slumdog
The channel from the Multi Screen Media stable, which is up against stalwarts
like HBO and Star Movies, has been able to draw in a slightly younger audience
base while having a wider age appeal.
has also been flirting with sports properties to bring
more sampling into the channel. It has been showcasing
the FA Cup to grow its reach while trying to connect
with brands to be
constantly visible in the viewer's eye.
an interview with Indiantelevision.com's Ashwin Pinto, Pix business
head Sunder Aaron talks about the channel's focus in content acquisition and its
How would you describe the progress that Pix has made since launching three years
We have evolved over time in terms of the schedule. In the beginning,
we had mainly library films. Today while library films are shown, we air current
films as well. While we are not the number one English movie channel at this stage,
we are in the top three.
How is the channel perceived in the market?
We frequently do dipsticks
and studies from time to time to find out what is the perception of the channel.
Data shows that we are skewed towards a younger audience. When we launched, we
were viewed by an older TG 25+. Today, our TG is 18-44 years.
the perception was that Pix shows all classic movies. That has changed with us
bringing in current films like Honeydripper, I'm Not There and Slumdog
Pix has focussed on building up a current crop of films this year. What strategy
has been followed in this regard?
We focussed on bringing in current films
without losing the premise of showing very good films. We have to remember that
just because a film is new, it doesn't necessarily make it good. Acquiring new
films has helped boost our reach and increase sampling.
Millionaire is our biggest acquisition and this airs on 27 June. This kind
of acquisition sends a positive signal to the market. We will also air a film
Is variety a factor in acquiring titles?
While variety is important, we
find that the action and thriller genres fare the best. We buy from independent
producers and distributors; we also source some content from the studios. Studios
are already selling to HBO and Star Movies. While this is a handicap, we are able
to find other suppliers and also do studio deals. This year we acquired films
from NDTV, PVR, MGM, Icon, Pathe, SPTI and AMG.
first and foremost aim is to find films that have good stories. We also focus
on getting films with recognisable stars. Our aim is to improve the ratio of current
films that we air.
terms of pricing, what is the scene as far as English films are concerned?
With the economic slowdown, the entire industry has had to change their budgets.
We are a smaller and specialised category. While pricing has not changed much,
suppliers abroad are closing deals at lower prices just because they understand
that channels might not be as successful as they once were due to the current
new films has helped boost our reach. Slumdog Millionaire is our biggest acquisition.
This kind of acquisition sends a positive signal to the market'
Has Pix been able to improve its viewership performance during the last six months?
We are looking to solidify our primetime slots as well as the afternoon bands
over the weekend.
the IPL we adjusted our schedule so that we could catch the audience after they
finished watching a match. This has done well for us. In some weeks, we could
catch up with HBO and even beat Star Movies in Kolkata or Mumbai. But we need
to be more consistent.
Are you refreshing the look and feel of the channel?
We are looking
at refreshing the look of the channel. We want it to remain fresh and contemporary.
We are encouraged at the response Sony Entertainment Television has received after
Did the blackout of Bollywood films on multiplexes boost viewership of the English
No! While viewers would have been at home, there are several
viewing options. DVD sales went up.
What programming innovations is Pix coming up with?
We are looking at
localising further. We are examining two to three concepts that can further build
our equity. We have had success with 'Chicks on Flicks.' Unfortunately, as not
many films were released during the producers' strike, viewership took a dip.
Now that it is over, the ratings should pick up.
What feedback have you received for the film review show Chicks on Flicks?
It has done well. In a lot of instances, the two hosts have not agreed with
their assessment of a film. It is completely non scripted. The girls attend press
screenings. They have a passion for cinema which is key in making the show work.
We engage viewers by giving them references of the clips that the reviewers are
talking about. Now our hosts are permanent invitees of studios who release films
Has Pix introduced thematic blocks to woo different audience segments?
we have festivals, it does not pay off to have too many blocks. Then there is
an inventory problem. If every Tuesday, for instance, you have a block dedicated
to action, then you need to have enough movies in that genre. You could run out
of content after a certain number of weeks and then start to duplicate.
could also happen is that viewers think that you only have a certain set of films
to dip into. The English genre does not have much appointment viewing happening
and blocks do not help in this regard. There is a lot of snacking that takes place.
So how do you build viewer loyalty?
Viewer loyalty is a challenge that
all of us face, particularly film channels that are title driven. In general,
you create an environment that viewers find attractive. Then you frequently deliver
films that suit their taste.
you look at dubbing and subtitling to boost reach?
No! Subtitling can
distract the viewer. Many channels put incorrect subtitles illegally. They do
not use the official subtitles from the supplier's side. They may not have taken
the permission of the film's distributor to do this. If you watch some of these
channels, you will see that the subtitling has been poorly done.
started airing soccer last year with the FA Cup. Given the escalating costs of
sports rights, to what extent does it make sense for a niche channel to showcase
It makes a lot of sense. When you want to grow reach,
you need to bring in special events. We have done things like concerts. The good
thing about the FA Cup is that it is not soccer every week. It happens on one
weekend a month. Then the timings do not disrupt our primetime schedule. Also,
the TG is a fit. So we increase sampling for the channel.
you looking at other sports events?
It has to be special enough to raise
our profile. I am not actively going out there looking for sports content. We
had aired a boxing bout with Oscar De La Hoya live a few months back.
there be a block for A rated content?
It would be good if this was to
come in. Frankly, it is a question the content code has to take a view on. We
will have to see what the CBFC comes up with. Some other Asian markets are more
relaxed in terms of what is allowed. Others like Malaysia, though, are stricter.
kind of marketing activities does Pix do to create awareness?
We do campaigns
periodically around big properties. We will be pushing Slumdog Millionaire
actively. We will have visibility in places like Planet M. We have also tied up
with a hotel in Dubai called Atlantis. This will be in the shape of a contest
and offers viewers the chance to live the life of a millionaire.
other strategy is to constantly connect with consumers. One way is to constantly
spend a lot of money every month. A better way, though, is to tie up with brands.
looking at tying up with restaurants like a Firangi Pani or a Sports Bar. We have
a tie up with DNA. We are trying to do something with The Times of India. We are
also tying up with out of home screens at McDonald's and Café Coffee Day
where our promos run on a continuous basis. These will be yearly tie ups. We have
a promotional deal with VH1. We are looking at one with MTV as well. To succeed
we need to constantly be in the consumer's eye.
about tying up with studies to promote theatrical releases?
This is an
area that we are increasing our focus on. This is not restricted to just what
Sony Pictures is releasing on the big screen. We recently tied up with Fox for
the release of Wolverine where we had clips and interviews. We also do
contests around upcoming releases.
marketing, thus, is not just about films that we show. What we bring to the table
when a studio wants visibility for a new theatrical release is much more than
what a competing channel can offer.
do you see new entrants like MGM affecting the scene?
The category is
growing organically. Homes with television sets are growing by about 10 per cent.
New channels are coming in, but the English film genre is about three channels
- Star Movies, HBO and Pix. The rest of them are in a sort of jumbled up pecking
order. MGM and Warner Bros, for instance, are coming in and spending money to
question is whether they will make the necessary investments to do what it takes
to become a leading player. It requires a sustained investment on all fronts -
programming, marketing and distribution. I feel WB will really have to step up;
their campaigns will have to be sustained across the country and not just in a
couple of Metros.
about the impact of the economic downturn on the genre?
Obviously we will
have to be savvy with how we spend our marketing dollars and also our programming
budget. There is at the same time a flight to quality. While advertisers reduce
their budgets, the top channels in each category are the ones that are in demand
a downturn you do not want to spread the money around too much. You want to go
with what you know is safe.
the ad sales front do you offer customised solutions in addition to spots?
We try to be creative at a time when clients want more added value. We have
Fiama d'Wills doing a campaign in our 4 pm block on Sundays. We air films that
target women in this block. We have also done stuff on the ground with clients.
did a 'Hollywood Picks Your Brain' initiative and ITC was a big sponsor. This
was done across six metros and one could win prizes like ipods. We are now looking
at doing a similar initiative targetted at media outlets.
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