Turner to leverage individual brand pull; revamps sales strategy

MUMBAI: With the recent addition of premium movie channel HBO to the Zee-Turner distribution bouquet, Turner India is now looking at leveraging the individual strengths of the English movie channel as well as Cartoon Network, Pogo and CNN. To achieve this a structural change has been implemented on the ad sales front.



Speaking to, Turner India ad sales head Monica Tata said, "We now have four great brands that have their individual skills, attributes and positioning. The audience profile is different. It would merit our selling them independently with a separate focus on each one. We have grown beyond Cartoon Network. Earlier our strategy was region driven. One regional head would sell all the channels. That is no longer the case."



"Now we have three national sales heads. The Cartoon Network and Pogo head of sales will be Avinash Pillai. Based in Mumbai he will look after our kids entertainment business. The Delhi based Saurabh Singh will head sales for HBO. His brief is the English general entertainment business. Anil Mathew will be our sales head for CNN and will be based out of Bangalore."



The ad sales team has been expanded to 40 members from 19 last year. While the channels will be sold independently, Tata said that if there were clients who require a presence across the four above mentioned channels the company was open to doing network deals as a one stop shop. The focus will be across the country. "While the South is a critical market for Cartoon Network and Pogo our focus is not regional but national. Having said that we do have regional advertisers. Since Cartoon Network and Pogo are seen in other parts of the country two of those clients are looking to use us as a medium to become national players. Our message to the clients is that we are leading in kids entertainment channel. Now with HBO we are also leading in the English movie channel space. CNN is an international channel with a regional perspective."

Last year Turner changed its ad sales strategy for Cartoon Network. It was no more sold as a niche channel. It is more like a general entertainment channel. "We decided not to sell it by time bands and instead do by programmes. The strategy has worked. We have achieved our targets for the first quarter of this year."

Pogo looking at localisation to bring in the moolah: Tata went on to clarify that Pogo would continue to be sold as a channel. "Pogo will have more Indian programming this year. That will be our focus and we will have about four to five Indian shows on air. That will be a big pull as far as getting ad revenue is concerned. The further localisation measures will kick off by April. Last year we had the Pogo Amazing Kids Awards which was very successful. Sachin Tendulkar did a promotion saying that he watches it with his kids.

"As we speak now Tiny TV as a franchise is doing well on the channel. Our movie franchise Lights! Camera! Pogo has also received an encouraging response for the advertising fraternity. We will be airing Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets later this year. Pogo is now 98 per cent in Hindi. It does not make sense to have a dual feed. The English audience is small. In the South however it is English. There are no plans to dub any of the shows in regional languages as of now."

Tata added that 70 per cent of advertising on Cartoon Network and Pogo targets the kids. The remaining 30 per cent, which is non-traditional, looks at women. "The non-traditional clients include P&G, Samsung and All Out. They are skewed towards mothers. Forty five per cent of Cartoon Network's audience is adult. According to the clients brief we work out vignettes, contests for the client. However we never lose sight of the fact that the show is the draw. The advertiser has to buy the show first. I would put the kids ad pie at Rs 140 crores. I am confident that with new players (Disney) coming in the share will grow in terms of advertising and viewership. That is what happened with news channels. Last year viewership for kids channel grew by 35 per cent and we contributed 80 per cent of that."

Cartoon Network also does innovations for clients. Tata points out that they are the only ones that do promotional licensing in India. For example the broadcaster licensed Tom And Jerry to All Out. Scooby Doo and Powerpuff Girls have been used in the past.

As far as CNN is concerned Tata pointed out that the advertising is skewed towards international business and travel. Therefore a lot of clients are hotels and airlines. However at times a local initiative can draw a regional player. A case in point was last year's Eye On India initiative. The Oberoi Hotel group had partnered with the news broadcaster on that.

The HBO strategy: As far as the new entrant into Turner's fold is concerned Tata said that the slots are sold on two parameters: time bands and titles. "The Big One and Big Saturday are sold both according to the title and time band. Like Cartoon Network for HBO as well we have met the first quarter's targets. It is however too early in the day to predict the growth for HBO."

"There have been changes made by us. We have brought about new things that were not done before or were not possible to do. For instance HBO had a restriction about sponsorship billboards, which is no longer there. Earlier there used to be only static billboards. Now we offer moving billboards. We now offer presenting sponsorships, which was not present earlier. The timeline for converting sponsorships has been shortened. Areas where we saw blocks have been addressed. We already have 35-40 clients in the new deal," she said.

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