Movie channels gear up for the IPL onslaught

Season seven of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is just a couple of weeks away, but instead of worrying about possible loss of viewership and ad revenue, movie channels are gearing up to serve even more interesting fare to their audiences.

Helios Media MD Divya Radhakrishnan opines: “IPL affects television across genres. GECs do not launch new shows, there are no reality shows, and no big blockbusters happen on movie channels. During IPL, everything comes to a standstill because that is the focal point during these months. However, the only thing posing a hindrance for IPL this time is the elections.”

The 9:00 pm slot is typically lost in the IPL frenzy however, over the years, television channels have learnt to work around the hugely popular tourney. Besides, movie channels claim that movies serve as entertainment for both - the young and the old, and hence, they can be consumed at any point of time irrespective of other activities happening in the broadcast space.

Yet, according to broadcasters of English movies, the 11:00 pm slot enjoys high ratings during IPL season, and strategising around this slot helps them compensate for erosion of viewership that takes place during the 9:00 pm time band. Broadcasters of Hindi movies on the other hand remain unaffected, and continue to mark their FPCs as per their preferences. Hindi movie channels mainly focus on catching viewers in the afternoon just before the beginning of the cricket match.

About Star Movies’ and Star Movies Action’s plans during IPL 7, Star India business head English cluster, Kevin Vaz, says: “The strategy is that viewers can immediately switch to exhilarating blockbusters after an exciting match of cricket. Both channels have a fantastic line-up for their audiences and will provide the best Hollywood content.”

With a view to amplifying the excitement of IPL, Star Movies has crafted an exclusive, on-air festival that brings together some of the biggest Hollywood premieres. “Riding on the heels of the IPL, Star Movies is bringing out a month-long movie festival titled 'Super Star League' in April and May, every night at 11:00 pm. We also have Amazon on board as a presenting sponsor,” says Vaz.  

Additionally, Star Movies will continue to premiere the biggest Hollywood blockbusters every month and has a great line-up including Oblivion starring Tom Cruise and a host of films featuring Jackie Chan. “Viewers can also look forward to a host of animation movies next month,” Vaz reveals.

Star Movies Action plans a contest round the special superhero line-up plus a speed demon festival featuring racing hits like Death Race, Ghost Rider, Gone in 60 Seconds and Speed. The Action@ 8 segment will see favourites like Predator, The Man with the Iron Fists and Hell Boy.

“We have always placed a great importance on the digital medium as we feel that we can really connect with our viewers and gauge their preferences via online activities. In the new age, everyone is online and it is the best place to really interact effectively with our audiences,” says Vaz.

As for HBO, the channel will air season five of its ‘Hollywood Premiere League (HPL)’ alongside season seven of IPL. Blockbusters including Jack Reacher, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Dark Knight Rises, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, Wrath of the Titans, The Hunger Games and Parker will be telecast at 11:00 pm, Monday to Thursday, from April 14 to May 22, 2014.

“The idea is to have a good content mix primarily driven by genres that are well received i.e. action and comedy. And that is what drives ratings, viewership and ad revenues in the end,” says HBO South Asia MD Monica Tata. “We will be doing on-ground activity, radio, on-air and social media promotions as well, building momentum for the two-month long festival that will offer blockbusters soon after the IPL matches get over.”

Multi Screen Media’s Sony Pix, sister channel of official IPL broadcasters Sony Max and Sony Six, will air season four of its ‘Pix Premiere League (PPL)’ alongside IPL. “We will continue to program around IPL with the fourth season of PPL, as it is the biggest cricketing event in the country,” says Sony Pix business head Saurabh Yagnik. “The PPL has a line-up of our best titles and we have witnessed a spike in viewership during this time for the 11:00 pm slot as well. We want viewers to witness some of the best movies on our channel with the proposition, ‘Stay Amazed’.”

PPL will be telecast at 11:00 pm Monday to Sunday from 16 April to 1 June. Only on Thursdays, there will be ‘Pix Doubles’ or ‘Super Pix’ or ‘Mega Premiere’ and will be the sponsor. With IPL being a MSM property, Pix will leverage Sony Max to get viewers to tune into PPL and catch some really good titles post the action on the field. The plan is to showcase 40 to 45 movie titles during IPL including The Amazing Spider-Man, Into the Blue, Rocky, The Terminator, Shaolin Soccer, Shutter Island, 2012, Kung Fu Hustle and After Earth. With less than two weeks’ time left, Sony Pix will premiere White House Down and Elysium to monetise well before the IPL begins.

Zee Studio too is working on its programming around the IPL and will continue its Powerplay block that has been reloaded this year with a thrilling mix of Hollywood Action blockbusters through the month of May to attract viewers on to the channel. Powerplay starts 1 May, Monday to Friday at 10:00 pm.

The block will see movies like: Cowboys and Aliens, Pirates of the Caribbean, Armageddon, Déj? Vu, Air Force One, John Carter and Enemy of the State.

Talking about Powerplay Zee Studio EVP and business head Anurag Bedi says: “During the IPL, the English movie genre has historically witnessed a sizeable increase in male viewership and we will capitalise on the channel’s heavy online presence, of one million plus fanbase on Facebook and 50,000 followers on twitter by setting it abuzz with activities all through the month. Powerplay will also be promoted extensively via television and print in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.”

Unlike most English movie channels which are trying to create a property around IPL through packaging and programming blocks, the Times Television Network English entertainment channels will stick to what they do best. “We don’t want to come across as gimmicky by doing a ‘premier league’ though these things may help in generating more revenues, but it does not really add to the viewership,” says Times Television Network English entertainment channels’ CEO Ajay Trigunayat.

Movies Now will compete with IPL through ‘Adrenaline Drive’, a block which has been successful for the past two and a half years for the channel. It will play at 11:00 pm, Monday to Thursday, beginning 7 April. Apart from high-octane movies like Commando, Iron Man, Salt, Transporter 2, Clash of the Titans, Batman Begins, Mr & Mrs Smith, Knight & Day, Behind Enemy Lines, 300, Collateral Damage and Superman Returns, Movies Now will also air the Matrix trilogy on 20 April, Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows on 12 April, and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island on 5 April, all at 9:00 pm. While Movies Now gets around Rs 9,000 for a 10-second slot, it is pitching about Rs 12,000 per 10 seconds for ‘Adrenaline Drive’.

Speaking of Romedy Now, Trigunayat says: “We have Friends With Better Lives launching from 1 April. It launched on CBS in the US at 8.30 pm on 31 March and we have done an interesting thing of launching a show at 11:00 pm, which is unprecedented, because prime time viewing has certainly shifted from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm as that is a better viewed slot today than 9:00 pm.”

In addition, Romedy Now will introduce two tent-pole properties in April i.e. Jolly Good Chaplin, a Charlie Chaplin special, and Romedy Weddings, a collection of unique movies keeping in mind the upcoming wedding season. The channel is also gearing up for the launch of a brand new series, 1600 Penn, which will be aired in May.

Romedy Now’s current properties including Kitchen Confidential, Witches of East End, Sunny Sundays, Y So Serious and Happy Hours will continue.

“Romedy Now is a content-agnostic channel. The content line-up consists of the best entertainment, keeping the core proposition of ‘Love. Laugh. Live’ intact. The content planned for the next two months is incredibly exciting. The Chaplin series will be quite a favourite, along with, of course, Friends With Better Lives, which is a brand new series written by Dana Klein (from the popular series F.R.I.E.N.D.S.),” says Trigunayat.

Asked about the strategy deployed by English movie channels, a media observer said, “Properties based around IPL on English movie channels essentially serve two purposes. One, they allow channels to package these properties for the advertisers, and hence, monetise them better than their regular FPC. Two, it helps keep the buzz on the channel alive, so that the channel is not lost in the IPL hype.”

Unlike English movie channels, Hindi movie channels are on a different route altogether.

As Star Gold & Movies OK executive VP & GM, Hemal Jhaveri says: “It is business as usual; it’s about forming the habit for viewers, and there is so much of cricket happening anyways, nothing really changes for us dramatically during the IPL. The premieres will get their share of the marketing push through our networks.”

Star Gold’s highlight for the month of April is ‘Masaledar Hits’, where every day, the channel will dish out a ‘Masaledar’ movie in the early evening slot; this will be a key property to win share in the non-prime time band. Golmaal 3, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Agneepath (Amitabh Bachan), Ajab Prem Ki Ghajab Kahani, De Dana Dan and Bhagam Bhaag among others will be aired as part of this block.

Similarly for May, Star Gold will have ‘Blockbuster Noon’, which Jhaveri describes as “a programming stunt that we are planning to pull off where we will showcase a slew of blockbusters in the afternoon time band on week days. As we believe weekdays are the new weekends.”

Additionally, the first Rs 100 crore grosser of this year, Salman Khan-starrer Jai Ho will premiere on a weekend in May followed by the world television premiere of O Teri.

Movies OK will continue running the Family OK Holiday Special Contest on weekdays, early evening. “The idea is to engage and interact with the entire family and at the same time, provide an opportunity to watch and win the contest,” says Jhaveri. The contest gives viewers a chance to win a smart phone every day and a lucky family to go for an all expenses-paid international holiday to Thailand. This band will see movies like Main Hoon Na, Khatta Meetha, Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehtein Hain, Beta and Tere Naam among others.

Bullett Raja will premiere on 27 April at 8:00 pm and in May; the channel will run the ‘SuperVeers - Action Blockbusters’ block at 8:00 pm on weekdays, apart from the channel premiere of the hit, Yaariyan in the weekend primetime band.

Leveraging the election fever with an aim to provide viewers with iconic reel leaders, Zee Cinema is launching the ‘Hamara Neta Kaisa Ho’ festival which will air from 14-21 April, 2014 everyday at 9:00 pm. The festival will see titles like Nayak, Himmatwala and Aparichit - The Stranger.

“Entering into our 20th year of entertaining our audiences with Movies, Masti and Magic, it has been our constant endeavour at Zee Cinema, to constantly provide our viewers novel offerings. We thrive to deliver the best to our audience hence have been rewarded with the highest GVTs, making the movie channel the undisputed leader in its genre. We are not aiming at combating IPL… in fact we look at it as an opportunity where television viewing will have increased eyeballs due to the election and IPL fervor,” explains Zeel deputy VP, head of programming – Hindi movie channels Ruchir Tiwari.

Zee Classic is strengthening its programming line-up for the month of April by premiering movies such as Nasir Hussain and Shammi Kapoor’s Dil Deke Dekho, two Kishore Kumar classics like Dilli Ka Thug and Bombay Ka Chor and Biswajeet’s Bees Saal Baad for the first time on the channel. The month of April will also witness evergreen superstar Rajendra ‘Jubliee’ Kumar’s festival which will see films like Gawar, Doo Jassos and Saathi amongst others. Zee Classic will be airing a special movie Leader on Voting Day, starring Dilip Kumar and Vyjayantimala, which revolves around politics. The plethora of movies will recreate the magic of yesteryears.

 “Zee Classic being the only classic Hindi movie channel in India believes in showcasing the great works of cinema. We have an extensive and unique library of superhit classic movies, and hence have created two primetime slots - 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm daily. Apart from this, the channel will also be showcasing movies of the evergreen superstar Rajendra Kumar which will pay a tribute to the Jubilee Star by airing a month-long festival called ‘Jubilee Kumar’,” reveals Tiwari.

The newest channel from the Zee’s stable - &Pictures - in anticipation of the upcoming IPL, has built up the Sunday 12 noon slot with ‘Hollwood Sundays’, a property that brings up a new Hollywood movie in Asli Desi Flavours every Sunday at 12 noon. “The creation of a destination Pictures@8 that shows high voltage entertainment daily at 8:00 pm was launched in order to develop a loyal viewer base for the daily prime time slot,” adds Tiwari.

The main attraction for the month of May will see the premiere of Total Siyappa, a co-production of &Pictures. The romcom directed by E. Niwas, released in theatres on 7 March.

On the marketing and digital strategy Tiwari says: “The activities are being constantly supported with on-air promotions and constant digital buildups and this will continue throughout the year.”

Looks like the stage is set… not just for the biggest cricket tourney in the shortest format of the game but also for the movie channels vying for eyeballs during this period. Game On!

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