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Axn is the no.1 english entertainment channel

Ravi budhwar

21 Apr 2011
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With new players coming in, the English general entertainment channel genre is starting to see action after being a three-player market for many years.

While AXN continues to lead, new entrants have eaten into its share during the first half of the year. Its share for the six-month period ended June 2011 has fallen to 56.1 per cent compared to 69.8 per cent a year ago, according to Tam data C&S 25+. It has 16 of the top 20 shows this year and still controls over half the genre in terms of viewership.

Star World, however, is the only one among the older players who seem to have grown their share. While it grew from 17.6 per cent to 22.8 per cent, Zee Café’s share fell from 11.3 per cent to 6.1 per cent.

Star World has taken several initiatives. Said Star India senior VP, GM Saurabh Yagnik, “We started with the stripped format on the weekdays with a sharp promise and focus. This helped grow appointment viewing. We did exclusive, glamorous local shows like 'Koffee With Karan'. This aggregated audiences.”

Star World believes that it is the leader in its target audience - the SEC A viewers. "The size of the audience that we chase is around 12 million people. This will expand. To maintain our position, we make sure that content is exclusive as the viewers we cater to are choosy, selective and evolved. On Star World, offering variety is important. That is why we have a multi-layered approach towards the English channel business," said Yagnik.

Among the new players, Big CBS Prime has a five per cent share. BBC Entertainment, which went for a makeover last year, has a share of 3.8 per cent.

Digital avenues important for marketing: The digital realm is an important marketing tool for this genre. Star World recently launched the Viewer Partner Programme (VPP) on Facebook. The aim is to use an audience feedback tool to engage audiences beyond television. The VPP will facilitate structured feedback from the channel’s core TG, thereby channeling their views and opinions on existing programming, on air customised show promos as well as the advertising format.

Yagnik attributes a part of Star World’s improved showing to sustained marketing initiatives. “Our digital engagement and what we did in the social media space has helped us build a loyal set of viewers. They are excited about watching us,” he said.

The three channels from Reliance Broadcast Networks Ltd (RBNL) have been extremely active on social networking sites – connecting directly with the target audience. “In the initial period when we were setting up our network, social media provided an ideal platform for consumers to reach out to us and inform us about areas where the channel was telecast. We have invested our efforts extensively on creating an experience on social media, through which we have been able to establish a continuous two way communication between the channel and the audience,” said RBNL Television division head Nikhil Mirchandani.

The UK pubcaster makes a renewed push: In January this year, BBC Entertainment went in for a refresh and also expanded its distribution reach.

BBC Worldwide Channels South Asia director Deepak Shourie said, “With the high level of positive brand recognition for the BBC, it was the right time to invest into the business. It has been our endeavour to create a unique channel with never seen before British content for the Indian viewer.”

BBC Entertainment believes that its positioning as the only channel that combines factual, lifestyle and entertainment content into one package will offer it several advantages in the Indian market.

“BBC Entertainment India separated from the APAC feed to an exclusive South Asia feed catering to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Pakistan. The programming was revamped to three key genres - Factual, Lifestyle and Entertainment,” said Shourie.

Asked about what content works, he pointed out to genres such as factual and food. “Our most successful programme was the event of the year – The Royal Wedding! Dancing with the Stars was the other big success; it grew the slot average by 200 per cent in the week of launch! Fan favourites such as Sherlock, Top Gear and the landmark series Human Planet continue to deliver well for us among others,” Shourie added.

The revenue perspective: The ad market for English GECs is worth around Rs 1.2 billion.

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (Zeel) executive director revenue and niche channels Joy Chakraborthy expects the genre to see a 8-10 per cent growth this year.

Multi Screen Media (MSM) president network sales, licensing and telephony Rohit Gupta is more optimistic and expects a 20-25 per cent growth this year for AXN, notwithstanding the market conditions. "Our local shows like India Minute To Win It and AXN Action Awards have emerged as drivers. Then there are properties like 'CSI', 'X Factor' which have also seen a good response. We have a unique position in this space as an action channel."

Madison Media Group CEO Punitha Arumugham thinks the genre is too cluttered. “While this genre gets premium non FMCG advertising, due to the market situation these brands may cut back. The channels will have a hard time growing revenues this year,” she said.
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