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Interview: Saurabh Yagnik, VP & Business Head, Sony Pix & AXN India

In conversation with BestMediaInfo.com, Yagnik talks about the network’s plans for its English entertainment channels, content strategy and the challenges the genre faces

Sarmistha Neogy | Mumbai | February 2, 2015

Saurach Yagnik Saurach Yagnik

The English movie genre in India is cluttered, with barely any differentiation among the channels. With no exclusivity in the movie titles screened, multiple players, and penetration of digitisation, the need for channels to differentiate exists more than ever.

Another pet peeve among the players in the genre is that, despite there being a sizeable population which understands English, the genre hasn’t seen a rise in viewership. However, things are slated to change as the industry is positive that with the new rating mechanism, many of these challenges will be tackled.

BestMediaInfo.com caught up with Saurabh Yagnik, Executive Vice-president and Business Head, Sony Pix and AXN India, to understand the network’s plans for its English entertainment channels, the content strategy and the challenges the genre faces. Excerpts:

What was your biggest achievement in 2014?

One of the biggest achievements of 2014 was our multi-year content deal with CBS Studios International, as a result of which AXN viewers now get to enjoy some of the longest-running shows not only from USA, but also worldwide. We realised that, going forward, the landscape of English GEC will change significantly with digitisation. Therefore, we needed to tweak our content to work in the new order, and that is how the CBS deal happened. This was one step more towards building an already established brand.

What lessons did you learn in 2014, which you wish to implement this year?

There are certain elements for strategy which we reviewed and found that whatever goals we set for 2014 is relevant for this year as well. There is no moving away from the fact that for Sony Pix, we need to invest in content, innovate to break clutter and build perception, and nothing of it is changing. It is only that we need to add momentum and keep differentiating ourselves, like what we did with our property ‘Pix School of Bonding’. Therefore, our endeavour would be to give content-driven proposition to the consumers in a manner that keeps building the brand. For AXN, we have two main learnings: firstly, build our shows and characters, and, secondly, gradually develop association with the channel.

What has been the response from Tier II and Tier III towns?

The focus of our channels from the advertising perspective and how far we can stretch our true potential are mainly in the one-million plus towns. Outside of these markets there is a potential as people do watch English content, but from the business perspective, our main priority is to consolidate the one-million plus towns, and then move on to the other markets.

Do your channels cater to kids?

Not really. As a channel we don’t cater to kids, but they do come in, which is why we have, from a Pix perspective, more, compared to AXN, Marvel movies, super hero movies which appeal across demographics. But when we measure, we don’t include kids as part of our key target audience. We predominantly talk to the young urban audience.

Is there any new marketing strategy for this year?

In 2015, we will be implementing a social media listening tool which will help to sharpen our insights based on various conversations happening around movies. This team will translate these insights into more actionable engagement, which will help to build perception and be on top of the audience’s mind. We have always believed in engaging regularly to be relevant to the audience, as a result of which, whenever we do any big premieres on the channel, we always back it up with a strong social media plan.

What are the challenges in the English movie genre?

The problem with movie channels is that there is no luxury of appointment viewing. The same movie plays on different channels, but it should always be an objective that whenever they come to the category, our channel should be at the top of the viewer’s mind. Also, personally, I feel that as a category, the kind of numbers which we get is not reflective of the true potential of the category. Given the fact that there is such a large population which is English speaking and are aware of Hollywood movies, the ratings should be much higher. So, overall, there is a significant growth in consumption of English movies with the theatrical distribution also increasing. But, if I match the fundamentals and the conversations around this category, both won’t match, because the latter is much higher.

Also, the category is extremely cluttered, there are too many channels trying to jostle with each other. There is actually no demand or appetite for so many channels. If more channels have to come into this space, they need to enter with a sharp proposition and differentiation. It can’t be more of the same stuff because what is happening now is that people come to the channel, watch movies and go away; the channel doesn’t play in the viewer’s mind. So, for AXN, which already has a sharp differentiation, we just need to back it up with the right shows. For Pix, we need to create disruption, differentiation in order to build the brand.

Going forward, what are your plans for both AXN and Pix?

In AXN, we have great reality content and all of these will be amplified in this year. We will be showcasing the strength of the library with the most iconic and diverse shows. Talking about Pix, our work would be to consolidate this space and ensure sufficient differentiation and disruption, with the way we engage with our viewers, while continuing to invest in the content.

Over a period of time, we have seen that it has become a multi-player market with digitisation. The top 3- 4 players are almost in the same range of market share, which is an interesting development, and it also makes it more competitive, and, thus, we are always on our toes.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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