Max leads Hindi movie channels; Zee Cinema speeds up

It has been a busy six months for Hindi movie channels. While Max has tried to latch on to its gains from the ICC World Cup with big ticket film purchases, Zee Cinema and Star Gold have tailored their strategies to fit in with the market reality and focussed on smart purchases.

With the help of Tam data (HSM C&S 4+), takes a look over the performance of the Hindi movie channels across a six-month period.

As the movie channel genre gears up to witness fierce competition, the past six months (January to June 2007) has seen a tussle between Zee Cinema and Max for the leadership spot. While Zee Cinema started ahead, it was dethroned by Max in March. Star Gold comes in at the third spot, but lagging far behind are Filmy and B4U Movies.

The shuffle in the top slot, in fact, took place in March with Max seeing a swell in viewership because of the ICC World Cup. As the channel dished out live cricket content from the West Indies, it hogged a channel share of 49 per cent, majestically up by 17 per cent.

Zee Cinema, on the other hand, slipped to the second position with the share dropping from 33 per cent in February to 26.

Star Gold also couldn't survive the cricket wave and slipped from a 24 per cent share in February to 17 per cent in March.

However, in the months that followed, Zee Cinema got back in the game inching closer to the leader with a share of 32, as Max stands at 34 in June.

Channel Jan-07 Feb-07 Mar-07 Apr-07 May-07 Jun-07
Zee Cinema
Star Gold
B4U Movies
Relative shares C&S 4+ TAM

As expected, the ICC Cricket World Cup did help Max cannibalize shares from other channels in the genre. But as India exited, so did some viewers but still it was attractive enough for Max to garner a channel share of 40 in April.

Max business head Sneha Rajani is happy with the outcome that cricket delivered for the channel. She said, "Although the ICC Cricket World Cup was the last cricket property on the channel, it did well for us despite India's exit."

Zee Cinema inched up to a share of 29 per cent in April while Star Gold gained five per cent.

Post World Cup, Max's task was to hang on to the lead even as it transitioned from a hybrid to a pure movie channel. The culmination of the cricket phase was immediately followed by the Amitabh Bachchan Film Festival, titled Ab Tak Bachchan, in late April. The channel also extended its primetime by bringing it forward to 8 pm from its earlier positioning at 9 pm.

It was as if a war was on between Amitabh Bachchan Vs. Amitabh Bachchan on the two competing channels. Zee Cinema launched a Big B festival titled Shanivaar Ki Raat Amitabh Ke Saath.

In May, Max continued to lead over Zee Cinema but dropped its share to 37. Zee Cinema stabilised in the two months with a score of 31 and 32.

The gap has, in fact, narrowed in June with Max slipping to a share of 34.

Sharing insight into how the channel hopes to regain its lead, Zee Cinema deputy business head Mohan Gopinath said, "We have almost reached Max with the help of film festivals. In fact we are planning several more in the coming months. The whole idea of festivals is to let the viewers know about the movies they missed out."

In a highly title driven TV movie market, Max is looking to maintain its current postion by betting big on blockbusters. The channel has reportedly spent over Rs 2 billion to acquire a mix of big, medium and small movies from big banners like Eros International, Yashraj Films Dharma Productions and Mukta Arts, among others.

Max kicked off the promotional activity for these films with 'Saal ke Sabse Bade Blockbuster' and will be screeningNamastey London, Cheeni Kum, Gandhi My Father, Eklavyaand many more.

The channel shelled out close to Rs 650 million for 16 films from the Eros stable alone. Rajani opines, "We have not even shown half of the Eros movies that we acquired, but I am confident that all of them will do well for the channel."

As far as big titles are concerned, Max has only recently started showcasing this blockbuster library with Kaabul Express, Lagey Raho Mumnnabhai and Kabhi Alvida Ne Kehna.

Zee Cinema has not done major buys this year. The channel, instead, believes innovative programming is the route to achieve the lead.

"We have done a few buys but all depends on how innovatively you promote and screen them," said Gopinath.

Top Ten movies from January - June 2007
Tam (HSM C&S 4+ TAM)

Speaking of titles, Zee Cinema hogged the top ten charts across the six month period with six of its films featuring in the list. Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Ghar Ho To Aisa and Phir Heraa Pheri were aired in May and June.

Though Star Gold has been strolling along in the third position in terms of shares, it garnered the maximum eyeballs when it showcased Krrish, topping the six month top ten movie charts with a whopping 4.1 TVR. Star Gold's telecast of Chup Chup Kealso featured in the charts.

From the Max stable, old timers Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaengeyand Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham came in to the top 10 charts delivering a TVR of 1.97 and 2.23 respectively.

How does the fight for winning the ratings battle shape up?

"You can't escape from the fact that every movie channel is very title driven. There will be weeks when competition increases and the competitor may show stronger titles. Zee Cinema had good weeks in the past and I am sure they will have a couple of good weeks ahead, but we will remain on the top," said a confident Rajani.

Not perturbed by the jolt Zee Cinema received during the two cricket dominated months, Gopinath said, "People in India are very sentimental about cricket, therefore it is bound to benefit the channel. However, we are back and hope to take the leadership spot."

Zee Cinema has branded different time slots to generate appointment viewership. The channel recently introduced 'Bhakti ki Shakti', a Sunday morning slot for mythological movies, which according to the channel is doing well.

Apart from the two movies in the top 10, Star Gold has managed to perform consistently except in April but has always stayed in the third spot.

When most movie channels are banking on the weekends, Star Gold has introduced a Monday prime time band for screening its library of comedy flicks. These include Bheja Fry, Darwaza Band Rakho and Ek Chalis ki Last Local with more to follow.

Additionally, Star Gold is running a Bond festival for the first time called 'Main hoon Bond' by dubbing these films in Hindi.

Filmy is still struggling to achieve a share in the double digit. The channel from the Sahara stable has crossed the experimentation phase and is now is ready to offer films with a blend of other programs in comedy and reality format. It has introduced the Rajnikant film festival and has its fingers crossed for the upcoming reality show Bathroom Singer.

Speaking of the channel's differentiated strategy, Filmy business head Shailesh Kapoor said, "We are still new as compared to other channels. Even then we have proved ourselves. In terms of acquisitions, distribution and revenues we have grown. Now the real phase starts when we slowly unveil comedy and reality shows on our channel."

The channel saw a fall in shares to six in the month of March. Senior executives have blamed it on distribution which they claim to have corrected now.

Completely isolated from all the action in the movie space is B4U Movies which has not managed to surpass a share of two over the six-month duration.

What's interesting, heightened activity is expected to take place in the coming months with Hindi movie channels from the Reliance Group, Viacom 18 and UTV slated for launch.

Will there be a scarcity of content causing a threat to existing players?

Rajani says, "There will certainly be a crunch of movies. I think there are very little movies available in the market for purchase for the next two years. Almost every major title has been tied up with some or other channel but I am sure the channels that are coming up must have planned something for themselves. There is certainly a dire need of more content. But we are not at all threatened."

Gopinath adds, "There is enough space available and I don't think it will lead to any scarcity of content."

"Bollywood has a mass appeal. That means more viewership and advertisers. GRPs of movie channels are increasing by 20 to 25 per cent every year and that gives a lot of scope for an advertiser," avers Kapoor.

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