English entertainment channels bank on film, show premieres for growth
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New Delhi: English entertainment channels are focusing on television premiers of movies and international TV shows to attract audiences and advertisers amid competition from video-streaming platforms.
This usually involves telecasting the shows closer to their international showing and broadcasting new films before they are available online.
AXN India, for instance, premiered BBC’s popular show Sherlock (season 4) on 7 January, a week after the programme was launched in the UK. Colors Infinity premiered season 1 of Emerald City on 7 January, within 12 hours of its international launch.
Industry executives said there has been a 40-60% surge in the number of new shows and films being telecast and that this will rise further. “We have seen an increase in the number of premieres in English entertainment channels. We try to offer shows within 12 hours of their US showing so that the viewers don’t feel the need to illegally download them,” said Ferzad Palia, head, youth and English entertainment at Viacom18.
Viacom18 which runs Colors Infinity, Vh1 India and Comedy Central India plans to air at least 40-50 new shows this year, up from 30 last year.
These shows attract both eyeballs and advertisers. Premieres of shows and movies have an advertising premium attached to them. Industry estimates suggest that ad rates for the premieres range from Rs50,000 to Rs1.5 lakh for a 10-second spot, and sometimes go as high as Rs2.5 lakh , depending on the popularity of the show or movie. In contrast, ad spots for regular shows and movies could be as low as Rs1,000- 1200 for a 10-second spot.
“Revenue from premieres is much higher. Sometimes, ad rates go as high as ten times the usual advertising rates. For Sherlock, we had a tie-up with Uber and Social (café-bar) and there was a huge buzz around it. These shows also help in building the overall image of the channel,” said Saurabh Yagnik, executive vice president and business head of English channels at Sony Pictures Network.
Movie channel Sony Le PLEX has been airing one premiere a week since its launch in August 2016 and plans to continue doing so. Sony PIX will offer 15-20 premieres on an average this year in a bid to cash on a market that is growing at 15-20% annually.
Airing premieres of blockbuster films and highly popular shows does come at a cost, but “it is a win-win situation for everyone. The producers of these shows win because airing the shows immediately after their international launch helps in reducing piracy and opens up the country as a new avenue for them. Producers are happy to distribute content to more countries,” said an executive at a TV channel who did not wish to be identified.
Jehil Thakkar, head (media and entertainment) at consulting firm KPMG said: “Movies are opening here before they open in the US these days. If the channels don’t premiere movies or shows, audiences switch to pirated content which leads to a massive revenue loss.”
Media buyers say that although this approach gives a first-mover advantage to English channels over video streaming platforms and pirated content, these channels remain far less expensive in terms of ad rates than Hindi entertainment channels. “These channels cater to niche audiences and have very high-end brands advertising on them. Their prime time ad rates are often less than 10% of rates of Hindi entertainment channels,” said a media buyer who asked not to be identified. On average, Hindi general entertainment channels charge between Rs90,000 to Rs4.5 lakh for a 10-second spot in a prime-time show.