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'Hand Pix' is a dream slot for Hollywood buffs

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For a television channel, programming is the key to garnering TVTs but passing the litmus test becomes that much harder when you happen to be in a niche space cluttered with other movers and shakers.

To cut to the chase, being an English movies’ channel is tough, what with ad revenues between Rs 450 and Rs 500 crore and at least 10 players in the reckoning.

And yet, Multi Screen Media’s English movies’ channel Sony Pix continues to retain its number two spot while aspiring to become number one. So what goes into it?

Sony Pix VP and programming head Amogh Dusad goes on to explain, “On an average, everybody in the category programmes 100-110 unique movie titles in a month, but the reality of the category is that only the top 400 titles contribute to nearly 70 per cent of the viewership.”

Pix has survived such a scenario and even emerged the winner because of its clutter-breaking strategies. For instance, the channel never clubs movies under run-of-the-mill festivals like ‘Spectacular 9’, ‘Blockbusters @ 10’ or ‘Action @ 7’. Rather, “We started doing Pixathons, then Pix Doubles, and we have lived up to the challenge of delivering the best franchises and will continue doing so,” says Dusad.

A new programming block, ‘Hand Pix’ is set to debut tomorrow, where cult movies like The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), Angels & Demons (2009), A Few Good Men (1992), Almost Famous (2000), Taxi Driver (1976), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and Shutter Island (2010) that appeal to a very niche audience will be aired every Sunday before the 9:00 pm slot. “Hand Pix is a dream slot for a Hollywood movie buff who doesn’t just watch movies but wants to learn and experience them too,” says Dusad.

The aim is to send out the message, loud and clear, that Sony Pix doesn’t just treat Hollywood movies as American imports but wants to push the envelope in increasing the consumption of English movie content. “We are picking movies that have really strong Hollywood credentials and iconic personalities associated with them in our ‘Hand Pix’ block,” says Dusad. “We want to give viewers the sense that you will get to see great films here. It has been programmed on Sunday evenings before the 9:00 pm slot as a lot of people want to watch exploratory movies during that time.”

Apart from the slot’s newness, it will also be packaged differently by Sony Pix, where a small synopsis will precede the movie, telling audiences what it’s about and what went into making it.

“So The Pursuit of Happyness will start off by saying that this is an inspiring story of Christopher Gardner… and we have not yet decided on whether there will just be a slate, or a voice-over as well but it will be a brief 15-20 second band before and during the movie telecast,” Dusad explains. “During the film, we will have loads of trivia around the making and other nitty-gritty to keep the viewers hooked on.”

Speaking of having a strong competitive edge in referring to the name ‘Pix’ in all programming blocks, he says, “Our word lends itself to actually convert into a vocabulary, so we already have eight programming blocks that have come out of the name of the channel itself.”

Of the eight, ‘Super Pix’ is the movie of the month, ‘Handy Pix’ showcases iconic movies from Hollywood, ‘Pixipedia’ is the trivia that runs during the movie, ‘Pixathon’ has a movie marathon from the same franchise, ‘Pix Doubles’ usually means the movie and its sequel, and so on. “It’s a cool way to bring association and it basically works on recall and builds association with the channel,” says Dusad.

Recently, the channel took its ‘Pixathon’ franchise to the next level by airing an animation Pixathon.

On the planning of the fixed point chart, he says, “The big learning that we have is the combination of TAM data as well as consumer interaction. On an average, a viewer spends only three to four minutes on a channel (in this space), and the movies that work well are those that viewers like to catch over multiple airings.”

Like other English movie channels, Pix too plays dubbed content as a change from the usual fare. For example, the channel will be airing War of the Arrows, a hit at the Korean box office, to set viewers’ pulses racing. “We pick up content that resonates well with the consumer and they generally look for a break from Bollywood and like to see some change with great visual effects and action. Dubbed content is a good option but we have very few titles as we believe in quality content, and a few of these titles have big names from Hollywood associated with them, like there is True Legend, which has the team of Kill Bill and Matrix associated with it,” elaborates Dusad.

English movies channels cater to the upwardly mobile young audience, which is the target audience for most aspirational brands in this day and age. This creates a lot of value for advertisers. “Primarily, the English movie space caters to premium audiences with a significant skew to male brands and that is the reality of the category. Within that, whoever finds it relevant for them is pretty much already on the channel. And now that we have risen in viewership, more and more brands are showing keen interest,” Dusad signs off.

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