Filmy: Six months and beyond

Big movies. More wrap-around programming. Heavy marketing. That is the course Filmy, the Hindi movie channel from the Sahara stable, will take as it gears up to double its audience base over the next six months.

The initial period, as Filmy business head Ashutosh puts it, is “more than satisfactory.”

“We have grown against established channels like Zee Cinema, Max and Star Gold. They have been in existence longer and have built a library over the period. We had to also combat against a tough distribution environment,” says Ashutosh.

He adds: “Over the next six months, Filmy could break the 50 GRP-mark. Filmy has also broken the myth that Hindi movie channel space has no space for a fourth player.” takes a look at the six-month evolution of the movie channel and the ideas that have worked for it.

Content Strategy: Wrap-around Programming

To break into the competitive market, Filmy adopted an innovative programming approach. The executives at Filmy fondly call it ‘Wraparound Programming’ and this phrase meant a lot of stress on non-movie programming.

“We worked on an image, which is filmy, fun, original and progressing. This original plan of creating a different channel, with a different look and feel, was then driven by all the other innovations, such as our characters and the off-beat film news content,” says Filmy marketing and content head Shailesh Kapoor.

The original plan: The channel will have a daily dose of three movies at 10 am, 3 pm and 8 pm. A big movie will be telecast on Sundays in the 3 pm slot.

Then, it will also have a variety of wraparound programming; four anchors will provide a whole new experience of seeing cinema at home. While other movie channels are mere telecasters, Filmy wanted to be the mouthpiece of Bollywood.

The flagship set of four characters are integral to the channel‘s programming formats.

Lallan (a rustic who has migrated to Mumbai from a small town in Uttar Pradesh), Lal Gulab (a typical villain as seen in all movies), Rokkky (who has the air of a Bollywood superstar and is played by Hindi film actor Chunky Pandey) and Ruchi Reporter (who is like a sting journalist and is interested in exposing the private lives of stars).

“We knew that, we were not anywhere near our competitors in terms of library. Hence, we wanted to score in the other areas,” says Ashutosh.

When Filmy started, the main concern was not about the third party content (commercials or movies), which was anyway there for a start.

“Our focus was to create our own content such as interstials and station IDs. We wanted to create a space for ourselves in the market. Otherwise, there was no point in being a fourth channel,” explains Ashutosh.

Research goes to prove that Filmy’s strategy reaped good fortunes.

According to channel executives, the anchor characters are doing very well in the markets they have been targeted as per the research findings.

For example, Lallan is a huge hit in the Hindi belt, while Rokkky has caught the attention of urban India. Inspired by the findings, Filmy has decided to give new roles to both the characters now.

“Lallan will now also drive the marketing and promotional initiatives of the channel. The channel has decided to reduce the duration of the 30-minute show anchored by Rokkky to increase the footage of the character through various other capsules,” says Ashutosh.

Responding to the feedback received, Lal Gulab, the video parlor owner who doubles up as a don in the nights, will now be given one single avtar.

“This character, has been very well-accepted by urban centres, while rural viewers have found difficulty in understanding the double-act. Hence we have decided to simplify the character with some modifications,” adds Ashutosh.

Keeping in mind that the break in TVRs are high, filmy makes it a point to spend a significant amount on wraparound production.

Without actually divulging the figures, Ashutosh claims that, the average production budget of a 30-minute wrap-around-programme on Filmy is much higher than the average budget of a normal 30-minute television programme. “You can call it cutting-edge programming,” he says.

The push for Filmy also came from some of the innovative tools it employed to enhance movie viewing on television. Ashutosh names Recap as one such key innovation.

Recap was targeted at viewers who drop in mid-way. As the name suggests, it presented a capsule of the exhausted part. Then we had Aunty Break Fail, which acted as a link between commercial breaks and the movie shown," says Ashutosh.

The average television viewing period of an individual is about 27 minutes and hence, Recap was a key innovation. Filmy capitalised on these types of small issues, which competitors "ignored."

In the six-month period, Filmy also claims to have re-written few market theories. Ashutosh says the channel has gave a new dimension to the 7 am – 10 am time band, which was otherwise perceived as a non-scorer.

“The market was skeptical about Filmy introducing a 7 am to 10 am movie band. But the band has delivered for us. We found that, it was not as bad as people thought. Then our strategy of branding slots also got acknowledged,” says Ashutosh.

Movie Content

Filmy has expanded its library to about 450 movies from a base tally of about 300 in the six month period.

Apart from the Sahara One Motion Pictures productions, the channel is now also looking at other producers for acquisition, according to Ashutosh.

“We have the advantage of being part of a leading Bollywood producer with Sahara One Motion Pictures being our constant source of good movies. To explore the space further, we are now targeting non-Sahara movies also,” he says.

Filmy is basically looking at movies, which make good business sense. Instead of acquiring all the movies coming its way, it has adopted a strategy of buying utility movies.

Filmy, which started its innings with Sahara titles such as No Entry, Page Three and Sarkar, has now Malaamaal Weekly, Gangster and the upcoming Katputhli tucked under its belt. As the festival season approaches, the channel is gearing up for more big ticket acquisitions, according to Kapoor.

“Filmy is getting aggressive on the acquisition front. We are looking to buy two to three big ticket properties and then a lot of other latest movies,” he reveals.

A key initiative forward for Filmy will be taking in the August-September period when it would be introducing Hollywood dubbed movie block.

As already reported by, Sahara is in talks with at least three international studios, including Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, for acquiring international titles.

“We have conducted a research on what sorts of movies would work in Hindi language, and accordingly we have set our preferences,” says Kapoor.


On the marketing front, Filmy is following the strategy of taking its lead anchors off air and positioning amidst the public.

The channel recently associated with Rakesh Roshan for his latest release Krrish and had Lallan performing in the respective theatres. Similarly, Lallan will be doing a Shahrukh act in theatres where Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna would be releasing.

Though Filmy has a full-fledged on-air promotion strategy, the channel is yet to hit the outdoors in a big way in terms of product promotions. However, in the next phase, this may change. And driving the initiatives will be the slew of new properties the channel is about to launch.

“Filmy may go outdoors to promote our big movie properties. Then we will be launching at least three big ticket properties in the September 2006 – March 2007 period and this would also require good amount of promotion across all media,” says Kapoor.


The channel, which was to be encrypted right from the start, faced initial hiccups as it had to swap the position for sister channel Sahara One.

Having won live cricket content, Sahara One – the general entertainment channel - decided to encrypt the channel in a short span of time. The only way to speed up distribution was to keep Filmy on the unencrypted mode while seeding decoder boxes for Sahara One.

Filmy then waited a longer time to regain the status of an encrypted channel. Reason: It wanted to ensure the fool-proof distribution of the boxes across the market.

“We went encrypted on 6 August. The transition has been seamless as we had to ensure that we protect our existing reach. We are now available in 79 per cent of the TAM market,” says Ashutosh.

Though he would not spell out the carriage fee to ensure a widespread reach of the newly-launched channel, market sources put it at Rs 100 million. The focus now is to ensure better space on the cable networks.

A separate team has been put in place with former Sony hand Sameer Ganapathy as the head. Earlier, Sahara News and the entertainment channels were handled by the same team.


This month, Filmy shocked its elder sibling Sahara One by overtaking the general entertainment channel in terms of GRPs.

An average GRP of 50 at the completion of six months has boosted the morale of the channel tremendously, says Ashutosh.

“When we began, it was a ‘by chance’ channel, rather than a ‘by choice’ one. Keeping the tough competition in mind, it was important for us to nurture that ‘force of habit’ and the Tam data validates our success. People now watch the channel by choice,” he says.

Filmy had opened its innings with a channel share of 4 per cent against Zee Cinema’s 34 per cent, Max’s 35 per cent and Star Gold’s 26 per cent for Week 7 (12 February), as per Tam (CS4+ HSM).

The channel kept an average market share of 6 per cent in the next 22 weeks before shooting to the double figure of 12 per cent for week 30 (29 July). The feat was powered by the telecast of movie Hanuman, which helped the channel to garner some significant numbers in the slot.

As per Tam data, for the period of 12 February to 29 July (HSM CS4+), Filmy holds an average market share of 7 per cent against Zee Cinema (35 per cent), Max (32 per cent) and Star Gold (25 per cent). The data reveals that, the Hindi movie genre has recorded a marginal expansion with the entry of Filmy, from 14.35 per cent to 16 per cent during this period.

“As per our knowledge, cannibalisation from other channels has been minimal. Our entry has expanded the market to a small extent,” says Ashutosh.

“Filmy has become a channel, which you can’t ignore. It has turned out to be a visually better looking and consumer-focussed player. We are giving a lot of stress on individual addressability. We are not taking the viewers for granted,” Kapoor sums up.

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