Turner denies erroneous report on shutting down HBO Hits in India

MUMBAI: The Indian television industry was rife with rumours that HBO's premier channels HBO Hits and HBO Defined were being wound up in India. This followed the tepid response from cable TV and DTH viewers to the high sticker price at which they were being offered. What added grist to the rumours was the fact that TV industry veteran Monica Tata quit the company  earlier this year after looking after the two channels for a couple of years.


In fact, a small website - like several other incorrect reports it continues to post - even erroneously reported that HBO was taking steps to shut them and that its initiative to run ad free channels had failed.


Now Turner International has issued a release clarifying that no such thing is happening. The release states that in fact HBO Hits is being rebranded as HBO HD and is en route to being relaunched in  2016, subject to regulatory approvals. However, HBO Defined would be discontinued come 31 December 2015 for Indian audiences.


According to Turner,  it had assumed full operational responsibility in January 2015 "including content acquisition, programming, distribution, advertising sales and marketing, for the HBO channel in India and other South Asia markets namely Maldives, Bangladesh and Pakistan."


With the expansion of its English entertainment portfolio that includes WB and now HBO, Turner says that it plans to keep the on-going commitment to invest in the HBO channels, and has recently completed a pan-India consumer research to better understand its audience and how it can best meet their expectations. The results of this initiative will be visible on-air soon, with a HBO brand refresh.


According to the release: "This will make the high definition HBO movie experience, currently available only to premium audiences, accessible to a far wider audience base in India. "


Says Turner International SVP and managing director Siddharth Jain said in the release“With the inclusion of the HBO channels, the Turner portfolio houses some of this region’s biggest and best-loved brands in English entertainment. We will lead the HBO channel operations in India capitalizing on the enormous synergies and experience we have in managing industry leading networks. We are excited to bring our first high definition offering, HBO HD to Indian viewers. Come Q1 2016, the viewers will get to see a more glitzy and invigorated HBO. Do stay tuned for more on that.”


While Jain will continue to lead Turner and HBO from a managerial and business leadership perspective,  programming and marketing for the HBO channels will be managed by Rohit Bhandari; advertising sales and distribution will continue to be managed by Juhi Ravindranath and Kishan Cheranda respectively


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