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2011: Destroying myths in the English movie channel space: Times Television Network CEO, English Entertainment Channels Ajay Trigunayat

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The television industry in 2011 has seen a very positive growth curve, as English entertainment witnessed robust augmentation. Times Television Network decided to foray into the English movie channel category with the launch of Movies Now, in line with its commitment of bringing the best in entertainment to the urban affluent audience.

In the year 2011, the players have faced and overcome a number of challenges which have been hampering the overall growth of the category. The first challenge was to set right the perceived notions about the category which are actually contrary to reality!

One myth was that English movie channels viewership is driven by new titles. 89 per cent of viewership was library led in the English Movie channel category. The same has risen to 94 per cent now.

English movie channels is a niche category. 56 million people watch English Movie channels week on week. This number is actually larger than the population of a few countries, thus making this genre an extremely popular and lucrative offering.

English movie channels are dependent on the DTH availability for viewership. 88 per cent of English movie channels viewership emanates from cable households (HHs). India is not ready for High Definition (HD). More than four million HHs have HD/HD ready TV sets.

While Movies Now has been a pioneer in the broadcast industry, setting up a 24-hour HD channel posed a host of problems. Times Television Network has no HD experience, unlike an MNC network which has extensive experience in many other countries! it involved extensive research, analysis, planning and implementation of the technology. Additionally, upgradation of current skill sets was done for all professionals.

Unreasonably high carriage fee is a malaise that has spread like cancer and is impeding the growth potential of the TV industry in India. There is up to 90 per cent of underdeclaration on the number of HHs by the local cable operators (LCOs).

While broadcasters should be earning subscription revenue, they end up paying humungous carriage fee which is highly detrimental to the business. However, the government mandate to digitise cable networks across India will bring a significant transformation in the industry.

Challenging the genre leader: For the past two decades, two players, Star Movies and HBO, have duopolised the category with no other player even being able to get close to their performance.

Movies Now launched with the aim to challenge the status quo and demolished the dominance of Star Movies & HBO.

Movies Now changed the rules for the category, being the only English movie channel to provide homogeneous presence and reach across all eight metros as against 5/7 metros being provided by other channels. This marked the end of an era where Star Movies and HBO ruled the roost for over a decade.

In a reverse of the accepted norm, the success of Movies Now has now prompted competition to drive programming on library led content instead of the new titles. As a result the viewership contribution of the library led movies has increased from 89 per cent to 94 per cent.

The English movie channel category is riding on a robust TV growth in 2011. The TV industry in general has grown in both C&S and Digital HHs. Total Television HHs have now reached 142 million, C&S homes are at 116 million and Digital HHs have grown to 26 million. This is further expected to grow to 42 million by the end of 2012.

Opportunities in 2012: All one million+ towns is the next big opportunity. There is a substantial growth in the reach of DTH and digital TV in rural India and we strongly believe that the way-forward for the television industry is capturing the audience attention in the 1 million+ towns.

Since the time of launch, Movies Now has strengthened its viewer base and has been homogenously present across the eight metros unlike other players who spoke about 5/7 metros. In 2012, the focus is clearly going to be on the 1 million+ towns.

The 2011 census shows that there are 53 towns with 1 million+ population from 35 towns in 2001.

Digitisation: The government mandate to digitise cable networks across India will bring a significant transformation in the industry. Currently, the digital viewership contribution is 27 per cent to the English movie channels which will go up to 50 per cent by the end of 2012.

The increased digital penetration will result in raising the bar of audio-visual reception and experience. Consequently, channels placed on high unwanted frequencies will also be clearly visible creating parity in reception quality and in turn result in enhanced viewership.

With CAS being mandated soon, the carriage fee should go down and subscription revenues should take a leap, resulting in healthier margins for broadcasters.

Digital & Social Media: The digital and social media space is growing by a whopping 140 per cent and there is a whole new host of avenue for the TV channels to engage directly and regularly with viewer beyond TV.

Being a cost effective medium, we will see a major refocus in allocation of the marketing budgets towards digital and social media space.

Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) Marketing: While this is currently non-existent in India, it is an important focus area and has the potential to considerably enhance user experience.

The EPG allows television viewers to navigate scheduling information and can be made available through television (on set top boxes), mobile phones, and on the web. While this is being overlooked currently, a strategic focus and implementation is imminent with the right message in terms of text & design needed for aiding channel navigation.

All in all, this is an exciting time to be in the English movie channel category and one can look forward to an action-packed 2012 with the players revving up for hot competition.

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