Wars on the English front

Selling English movie channels in a country where speaking in English was suppose to be a fashion statement- at least for the middle to upper gentry- should not have been too difficult . Ironically, it is. Add to the huge competition in this genre not only from fellow English movie channels, but also the general entertainment channels, and you have a quasi- bloodbath in the making. Will English movie channels ever dominate the hearts and mind of Hindi channel- loving masses?

How many television channels can you count amongst your favourites out of the odd-400 in the country? Five? May be even ten? And so what if they are your favourites? Choosing television programs these days is much dependent upon what is “mutually acceptable”; mutually acceptable because unlike twenty years back, TV viewers today have umpteen   choices! If you have ladies in the house (both old and young, married and unmarried), your idiot box will invariably have either the ‘saas-bahu’ episodes  flooding the senses of the Venusians or some curtain call at the end of a Hindi film receiving a breathless wonder from the fairer gender. If you have kid in the house, then you will be stuck to the world of pogos and tom and jerrys. If you have friends over, then forget the channels-its the DVD which gets into action with the latest blockbuster! And then there are wild life channels peddling apes and tuskers that wobble about and then again some spiritual and religious channels; and of course music channels too for the modern MJ’s, news channel for the critics, sports channel for those who want to know the world cup winners! And then here comes the English movie channels.

They are hip, they are happing, they feature English movies that would make the Oscar roll call on any given day-yet , they are not what you’d call thundering successes with respect to viewership, or even brand loyalty. Dump a load full of competition and the fact that masses prefer watching staid, rigmarole, Hindi and regional serials are more than electrifying movies, and you start realizing why very few viewership rating chart features English movie channels. But this is not to say that nobody watches English movies. Too many do! And that’s where the war among the English movie channels begins.

In reality not just English movie channels, but even English entertainment channels have a long road to cover on Indian soils. As far as English movie channels are concerned, as per data furnished by TAM media research, the average television rating percent for English movie channels is between 0.02 and 0.05. So how are these outfits making money? After garnering rs.220 crores in ad-revenues last year, the 11 English movie channels have recorded a top line of about rs.300 crores so far this year; expectedly, two biggest in this genre are star movies and HBO with respective market shares of 41% and 29%.

With 11 channels in the offering, the once deprived for choices Indian viewer, is being spoilt for choice. Today, there are 30 premiers every month on the top three English movie channels- star movies, HBO, and WB. And while Sony pix and Zee Studio offer bits of everything (featuring even sports programs and reality shows at regular intervals), UTV World Movies and NDTV lumiere try and offer the best in international cinema.

But at the end of the day, one cannot deny the fact that English movie channels are in niche business; it’s about engaging a couple of lakhs of viewers, not crores. And it’s really the quality of movies that will prevent an HBO viewer to move on to Sony PIX or STAR movies.

Apurva Anugrah