Niche English channels use innovative packaging promos to grab eyeballs in the 10-11pm slot

The late night slot (10-11 pm) has over the past few months grown in importance for niche English channels. This has resulted in a rearranging of strategy. In this special report looks at their strategies as well as performance in recent times. TAM data taken is for the six metros for the period 27 April to 3 May for all C&S homes.

English General Entertainment Channels: Zee English, despite having the platform driver Friends from Monday-Thursday has a share of 0.03. Star World is way ahead at 0.11. Keep in mind the fact that the channel revamp had not yet taken place. AXN is in second place with a share of 0.07. The weekend sees all three practically doubling their share.

If you only take SEC AB for the four major metros the picture shifts, for the period 30 March till 26 April in the 10-10:30 pm slot Monday to Thursday Zee English is ahead with a share of 0.42 and a TVR of 0.13. AXN has a share of 0.19 and TVR of 0.05. Star World is in third place with a share of 0.07 and a TVR of 0.02 in that slot.

AXN assistant VP, marketing, Rohit Bhandari

AXN assistant vice president, marketing, Sony, Rohit Bhandari pointed out that there is no point trying to counter the popularity of soaps. " Nine out of ten people watch them anyway. What we did was to change our programme slot. Since films are leisurely in nature we shifted them onto the weekends. So now you have four films airing on Saturday and Sunday instead of just two earlier."

"From 8 April we brought our Prime Zone up from 8 pm to 10 pm on weekdays. Our audience starts building from 8:30 pm -11 pm. At 10 pm one can see high profile shows like 24 and CSI III," Bhandari however, added "It is too soon to see if there has been any change in viewership on account of this." The channel‘s primetime peak occurs late in the evening.

Zee English has been revamping its strategy for several months now. The channels programming head Ashvini Yardi said, "As early as July 2002, based on in-house research and viewer feedback, we had introduced the LOL (laugh out loud) band around the popular comedies in the channel from 9 pm to 11 pm.

AXN building the buzz with 24

In the 10 - 11 pm band, the platform driver is Friends, at 10 pm from Mondays to Thursdays. On all weekdays we have popular Dramas at the 10:30 pm slot." These come in the form of Will and Grace, She Spies and political drama The West Wing. Dwelling on efforts being made to counter the impact of popular soaps in the 10-11 pm slot Yardi said, "On an experiential level we are constantly innovating to offer viewers a unique brand experience. At the operational level this will translate into setting trends and offering cherry picked properties that are critically acclaimed, diverse, and popular and the latest." Zee English will introduce the critically acclaimed black comedy Six Feet Under from tonight at 9:30 pm.

Tripathi also dwelt on the issue of promotions and advertising being used to lure audiences saying that a mix of cinema, advertising on other TV channels, programme guides, direct mailers and consumer contests are used to promote the channel and the specific time bands. Late Night Discovery is currently sponsored by Maruti and other advertisers include Godrej Appliances, Emirates, Mahindra, Pizza Hut, Britannia, ICICI Bank, Titan, Yamaha, Nokia, Ford, Liberty, Hitachi, Oriental Insurance and Hutch amongst others.

Zee English, Zee MGM head Ashvini Yardi

"Our target audience is the upwardly mobile, 25 + adults. Our programming is such that couples can watch Late Night Discovery together and the programming is not gender specific" Tripathi said.

Finally, despite repeated efforts, was unable to obtain a response from National Geographic.

English Movie Channels: Once again there is a sharp contrast for the figures on weekdays versus the weekend. On weekdays HBO‘s share is marginally ahead of Star Movies at 1.09 versus 0.95. On weekends however Star Movies gallops away at a share of 3.2 versus 0.61 for HBO.

Star Movies continues ruling the roost. TAM data for six

Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson‘s antics saw Star Movies bulldoze the competition on Friday night

metros from 1 Jan till 26 April reveals that eight of the top ten English movies belonged to it. The Jackie Chan western comedy Shanghai Noon which premiered last month made Star Movies the top performing English language channel and the third most popular channel in Indian cable homes across the crucial Friday night 9-11pm time band.

Hallmark despite innovations like the reality series Adoption continues to struggle to carve its own niche. It‘s share on weekdays is a meagre 0.02. This goes up to 0.04 on the weekend. Zee MGM fares better with a shares of 0.25 and 0.39 respectively.

HBO meanwhile is continuing on its path of introducing innovative time slots like Kings of Kungfu and Double Trouble where movies starring two action heroes air. Asked if there was any recent change in strategy, HBO South Asia marketing head Shruti Bajpai in an earlier interview had said, "Not really. There is no point in making changes to a formula that is working very well for us."

Explaining Zee MGM‘s strategy Yardi said, "Zee MGM, last year embarked on the universally successful format of airing genre-based movies. It introduced five fixed and two variable slots every week. These variable slots were introduced at the primetime bands of 9 -11.

Like in the case of Zee English, this again was the result of comparing and analysing our research findings, which pointed out to some inherent channel strengths that ensured better viewership during this time band. The top of the line slot is Romantic Mondays and Man Fridays and in these slots the channel share has gone up by thrice as much in recent times

Winona Ryder and Anjelina Jolie square off in HBO‘s Girl Interrupted

"Our efforts rest in innovatively packaging existing and new titles to suit varying user tastes, which we think are as important as introducing fresh and exciting titles to constantly spruce up the offering. We constantly introduce titles like Run Lola Run which is so to say not mainline Hollywood stuff but are critically acclaimed. Hence this way we strive to satisfy the auteur as well," Yardi says.

Yardi elaborated on the weekend strategy thus, "The weekend viewer is relaxed yet focused. Taking this aspect into account, our major titles in Zee MGM are put during the 9 - 11 pm slot believing that the nature of the viewer allows him to make prior appointments with programmes."

When asked about the audience being targeted Yardi said, "Our target audience today mainly comprise of the English speaking audience in the metros and the mini metros. (15-34 Sec A, B) As far as our viewer profile is concerned we have as many men viewers as women. They are an eclectic mix of people who are affluent, aspirational and life-style oriented. Their propensity to spend is high and they spend more on life style goods.

"Viewership patterns change all the time owing to the ever-growing popularity of English as a language and also other social and economic factors. However, our efforts are to transcend ‘specific demographics‘ and be a mass content channel of all the English speaking and English thinking populace in India. We think that our combination of mass appeal and superlative programmes will appeal to this changing viewership patterns."

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