By Anushree Bhattacharyya
From time to time English movie channels have showcased various popular movies in their effort to increase their viewership. Christened as ‘premieres’ such movies have always played a major role in creating the right amount of noise about the channel apart from attracting eyeballs. And now Sony Pix, the English movie channel from the stable of Multi Screen Media (MSM) has taken the concept of premiere to the next level with the launch of Premiere Pixathon. Under this new initiative, Sony Pix will premier four movies— The Expendables 2, After Earth, Dark Tide and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo back to back on February 16. “We relaunched the channel with a new proposition, ‘Stay Amazed’ in October last year. Pixathon allows us to stay true to the new proposition as the four movies are different. Also, the move helps us in establishing our credentials amongst viewers apart from providing a glimpse of our library of movies. Secondly, the English movie business today has about six to seven players, each trying a different approach to remain in the top of the mind of viewers,” said Saurabh Yagnik, executive vice president and business head, Sony Pix.
In India, broadcasters use the term premiere from time to time depending on the kind of movie that is being showcased. For instance, there is a ‘channel premiere’ which essentially means that the movie may have been screened on other channels but is a premiere on that channel, then there is an ‘Indian TV premiere’ which is more promising as it is premiering first time on ‘Indian pay TV’. Next, there is a ‘world premiere’ which is first time on all the international feeds of that channel, and lastly, there is the category of movies that haven’t been released in India theatrically (mostly because they were not perceived to be big revenue generators) that are called ‘first time ever in India’.
While this is the first time that the channel will premiere four movies back to back, it had earlier showcased popular franchisees such as Mission Impossible, Shrek, Spider-Man, etc., back-to-back on a particular day. “Such marathon telecast gives more scope to package and market content as typically on such days the ratings double compared to a regular day. The reason why such an initiative leads to eyeballs is a viewer may not make an appointment to watch a standalone premiere as she knows that she can catch up the movie later. But when she knows that on one single day she will get to see four to five of her favourite movies, she ensures that she gets to watch them,” added Yagnik.
Interestingly, a premiere is scheduled for telecast either during the weekend or on national holidays. Sony Pix too is set to premier all the four movies on a Sunday. According to Shruti Bajpai, former country manager, HBO Asia, who speaks in the capacity of an industry observor, said the big ticket premieres are either on a Sunday afternoon, or a Saturday afternoon repeated on the following Sunday or on a public holiday. Also, prime time does not necessarily mean only post 9 p.m., it can also mean the afternoon slot on holidays. “Sometimes channels like to experiment, they slot the same movie back-to-back hoping to attract different audiences that tune in at different times,” she added.
Jehil Thakkar, partner, head, media and entertainment, KPMG calls the initiative a smart move by the channel. “Given the number of English movie channels, the spike in viewership is only expected through differentiated content. This initiative will not only help in increasing viewership, it will only increase awareness about the brand Sony Pix and the library the channel,” he added. Premiers also aid in raking the much needed moolah to run the business. Apart from roping in a presenting sponsor, a channel also is able to get associate sponsors on board. “We have so far got ITC Engage deodorant brands as the presenting sponsor and are in talks with several other brands,” added Yagnik.
On an average day, an English movie channel commands an advertising rate of Rs.5000-10,000 depending on the popularity of the movies. In case of premieres, most of the air time is sold through sponsorships where the channel can earn as much as Rs.50 lakh from the presenting sponsor and Rs.30-20 lakh from associate sponsors.
As per a senior media planner, the channel has scheduled the movies very smartly. While the day starts with a very popular franchisee movie —The Expendables, during the day viewers will get to watch not-so-popular movies and again during the prime time slot at night, Sony Pix will air The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, another popular movie. This placement allows them to sell the space for advertisements apart from getting sponsors.
Apart from being promoted on the network’s other channels, Sony Pix’s Premiere Pixathon will be promoted in multiplexes and through the launch of a digital campaign.