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Time spent on English movie channels down in 2005

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With new channels and genres like infotainment and news growing, the challenge for existing players is to hold on to their audience share.But that is what English movie channels have failed to keep in tact.

Ideally, movies should be big draws, but figures reveal a different story altogether. Viewers spent less time watching Star Movies, HBO and Zee Studio in the period between 2 January to 3 December 2005, compared to the same period last year. This is according to Tam data in c&s 15+ SEC A, B across six metros.

The average time spent on HBO was five minutes and eight seconds per week in 2005, compared with seven minutes and eight seconds per week last year. Star Movies experienced a drop from seven minutes and 20 seconds per week to six and a half minutes per week on an average. Zee Studio also fell from two minutes and 24 seconds to one and a half minutes per week.

The top 10 English films of 2005

Movie Channel TVR
Die Another Day Star Movies 1.19
Hulk HBO 0.81
Titanic Star Movies 0.81
Jeepers Creepers II Star Movies 0.72
The Scorpion King HBO 0.72
Terminator 2 Star Movies 0.71
The Mummy Star Movies 0.67
The Medallion Star Movies 0.66
Johnny English Star Movies 0.62
Terminator 3 HBO 0.62

Talking about the less time that viewers spent, HBO South Asia country manager Shruti Bajpai points out that in a year when new channels launched blips were bound to happen. "Howeve if you look at the English entertainment space, then the movie channels lead in terms of share. Also what is good in our space is that there are just two major players - Star Movies and HBO."

Ducking to directly answer the query on falling time spent on the channel, Bajpai added that movies "will never go out of fashion and the fact that the sales of plasma TVs and home theatre systems is going up bodes well for the genre."



Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly share a tender moment in Hulk

In terms of highlights for the year, Bajpai points out that HBO completed five years in 2005. "HBO is no longer a channel but a brand. 2005 was a year of consolidation. In 2004 we launched the Big One initiative where each quarter one big film was shown. This year every month a big movie was featured. We also launched the Big Preview. This was where big ticket releases like King Kong were showcased. Another important area was increasing the original content that we offer. From August - December 2005 we launched a new original series almost every month," she gushed.

According to data on all day channel share, Star Movies narrowly leads on weekdays Monday -Friday with 47 per cent while HBO lagged behind at 44 per cent. On weekends, Star Movies does better with a 55 per cent market share followed by HBO with 38 per cent. Zee Studio‘s share remains the same at eight per cent.

As far as Star movies was concerned, the channel‘s senior VP marketing and communications Ajay Vidyasagar says, "One of the initiatives we undertook this year was Experience Hollywood in May. This property brought Hollywood that much closer to the movie buff. Experience Hollywood was launched with an association around the most anticipated movie of 2005 Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Viewers not only got to see exclusive footage from the movie before theatrical release, and brush up on the saga with Star Wars Episodes I & II, they also had a chance to attend the Japan premiere of the movie by answering a simple question asked on the channel."

Men with 20 minutes spent more time on the English movie channels compared to women with 12 and a half minutes on an average every week.

In terms of ratings of movies, Star Movies has seven compared to HBO‘s three in the top 10 list. Last year both the channels had equal number of movies in the top 10.

Star Movies‘ Die Another Day came out on top with a 1.19 rating while HBO‘s Hulk got a 0.81 rating. Titanic is still a draw with viewers. It got 0.81 when Star Movies aired it. Movies from Zee Studio failed to figure in the top 20 list, though the channel business head recently said that plans are being put in place to draw in viewers in large numbers leading to higher ratings.



Though Zee Studio representatives were not available for comments till the time of writing this report, it felt that 2006 could be a key year for the channel.

Next year the channel will unveil a new look and feel with an aim to differentiate itself from the competition by offering fare that is not the blockbuster kind, but is still high in quality. That is not to say that the channel didn‘t do much this year. It showed big ticket titles like The Aviator and, more recently, Phantom Of The Opera.



One thing that the players are happy about is that DTH will get a major fillip next year with Tata Sky also slated to start its services.After all, English movies can travel across any platform. They will also be able to better measure consumption habits in terms of who is watching what and for how long.

As Vidyasagar points out, "The emergence of new technologies, such as DTH, is a tremendous opportunity for us. This is purely because the early adopters to these technologies are most likely to be similar to the English Movie audience. Moreover, this would also provide channels such as ours as well as our advertisers an opportunity to provide value added and improvised content especially targeted to the hardcore movie buffs."

The challenge for this genre will be to engage viewers in a fast growing lifestyle environment where the internet competes with television to an extent. Having a 360 degree experience, thus, becomes more important.

So what are movie channels doing? While pointing out that the HBO five-year party allowed industry people to `feel‘ the brand, Bajpai said that the switchover to the Zee Turner bouquet has had positive impact on the ad sales and distribution with around 200 new clients coming on board this year.

Another big challenge for the genre next year, points out Vidyasagar, will be to tackle the increased out of home entertainment options available to people such as malls and multiplexes, which ultimately contribute to keeping the viewers away from their homes.



But 2006 also brings along some regulatory problems. A recent court verdict (though restricted to just one state) disallows airing on an any TV and cable channel films that have been certified `A‘ (adult only) by the censor boards.The interim court verdict is likely to be contested by cable ops, but till that happens, movie channels will certainly feel the squeeze.

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