AXN to increase marketing spends by 30 to 40 per cent this year

MUMBAI: English general entertainment channel AXN will increase marketing spends by 30 to 40 per cent this year with more new show launches.

In fact 20 per cent of its marketing budget for the year is going towards ‘Hannibal‘ which kicked off on 5 April at 10.00 pm.

The 13-episode weekly television show is a prequel to famous films that featured psychiatrist and psychopath Dr. Hannibal Lecter that include ‘Red Dragon‘ and ‘Silence of the Lambs‘.

Speaking to, AXN Networks India Business Head Sunil Punjabi said the character Hannibal has strong brand recall due to the film series. "That is why we felt the need for a multimedia campaign. We have been doing activities for a few weeks. A lot of outdoor is being done including hoardings and bus-backs. We also air ads in cinema halls. We use pre roll ads on Youtube, and advertise on the Times of India."

The focus of the campaign rests on the fact that the show is about a master manipulator. It is also focusing on the fact that the show has intelligent content and is about the shifting dynamics of the relationship between two people.

"I don‘t worry about competition. ‘Hannibal‘ is a new genre that has not been seen on Indian television. In terms of quality it is a couple of notches higher than the competition whether you look at the storytelling or the technical aspects like the visual effects and the sound. It will set a new benchmark for quality in English entertainment," says Punjabi.

The focus of AXN will rest on airing shows as close to their US airing date as possible. "This way we can cut down on online piracy. Having a strip strategy works better for older seasons but not for the latest season. The temptation of viewers after they see the first episode of a new show is to try and download the later episodes. If we air it as soon as possible then there will be no need for them to go elsewhere".

He also does not feel that the Indian Premier League will affect viewing of ‘Hannibal‘ by much. That is because fans of the Twenty20 extravaganza are also AXN fans. So they will switch between watching the match and watching the show.

Punjabi‘s focus since he joined AXN last year has been to have differentiated content, since the genre is getting fragmented with more entrants. Drama content is growing on the channel with the focus now resting on having content that thrills, as opposed to the earlier focus of being the heart of action and adventure.

"Apart from ‘Hannibal‘ we have recently acquired ‘Sherlock‘ from the BBC. This is also a show that is unique to the Indian audience. Within drama there are five to six genres that are shown on the channel. For instance ‘Justified‘ is a traditional bang bang kind of show. ‘Chuck‘ on the other hand is geeky in nature and will appeal to those who are tech savvy. So it is not about repeating the same thing."

Finding sponsors for ‘Hannibal‘ was a challenge. So far only Blue Star has come on-board. Generally an AXN show has around four sponsors. "But I am confident that once the first episode airs, clients will want to come on-board when they see it. We are talking to other companies. Blue Star had conviction in the show and so they had come on-board."

"This show is something new and is seen as a kind of experimental. ‘CSI‘ on the other hand has eight sponsors. That is because it is familiar and clients know about it. I think that we should have more screenings for the media fraternity to create better awareness about a new show."

But there is a catch 22 situation. If a show airs very close to the US airdate then there may not be enough time to have enough screenings for the media ahead of the show‘s launch. That is something that the broadcaster will have to get around.

Blue Star GM Corporate Communications and Marketing Girish Hingorani said the show will appeal to the 25-44 TG which is the target group for his company. "Since you cannot buy this genre on the basis of numbers we look at the quality and uniqueness of content, the plans that a channel has for social media, and the buzz that it generates on social media platforms. AXN scores strongly in these areas. ‘Hannibal‘ is intellectual in nature which is why we were drawn towards it."

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