The market for English movie channels is booming. Over the past few years, the total number of English movie channels has doubled from five to ten. Now, Indians are spending more time watching English films. Ajay Trigunayat, CEO, English entertainment channels, Times Television Network, uses TAM Media Research data to illustrate this. He reckons that going by the growth in viewership over last year or so, against 45 million people watching English movies for 42 minutes a week, the number has gone to 56 million watching those for 55 minutes each.
And, this growth comes not just from the eight metros. “This category is growing at 30 per cent even outside of the metros. We are on the cusp of something fantastic,” says Sunder Aaron, executive vice-president and business head, Pix (part of Sony Entertainment network).
New players such as Movies Now and Warner Movies, the spread of digitisation and the clutter on television are driving this growth. The result of this market expansion benefits everyone. Advertising spends on the genre grew 25 per cent to hit an estimated Rs 250 crore in 2011. Add pay revenues to these and the category inches to Rs 400 crore — just over one per cent of the Rs 33,000-crore television business.
Why are Indians watching so many English films on TV and why are advertisers paying so much to reach them?
Enter the reasons
“The appetite for Hollywood movies has increased in India because of augmented activities from channels like STAR Movies that have invested in growing the category,” says Saurabh Yagnik, general manager and senior vice-president, English channels, STAR India. He is partly right. It’s the time and effort put in by brands like HBO and STAR Movies into distribution, packaging and marketing of English films that’s finally paying off, as new players come in and digitisation takes off.
HBO, for instance, has been around for 11 years. From the top two metros, it went to five metros and then added more. Shruti Bajpai, country manager, HBO, reckons English movie viewing is more broadbased now. “The genre appeal hasn’t changed. Movies that were watched earlier are still being watched. While movies like Harry Potter are high raters, popular ones like Enter the Dragon still do very well for us. But, what is happening is that new viewers keep coming in. In many ways, a massification of the category is happening,” she says.
Bajpai is simply pointing to a larger trend. There are an estimated 200 million Indians who read and speak English. So far, most of the attention was focused on Hindi, Marathi, Tamil and other local languages that offered a bigger and more lucrative audience for TV. As growth stabilises in those languages, focus has turned to English, also an aspirational language in India. Note that English general entertainment channels, too, have seen a doubling of viewership in the last two years.
|ENGLISH MOVIES FIND FAVOUR
Share of channel genres (in %)
||2012 (Till Wk 14)
|Source: TAM PeopleMeter Systems Target group: CS 4 years+ Market: All India; Period: 2009 - 2011
The second thing driving this growth is, obviously, digitisation. With about 46 million direct-to-home (DTH) connections, nearly a third of the country’s total TV homes are now digital. TAM research shows that homes with digital connections have a skew towards movies, business, sports, music and English entertainment. These households spend thrice the time spent by analog viewers watching English content.
English movie channels’ share (in %)
|UTV WORLD MOVIES
|*Movies Now was launched in Week 52, 2010; WB in Week 12, 2009
Source : TAM Media Research
Target group: CS 15 years+; Period: January 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012
Market: All India
The third thing that has been driving the growth of English movie channels is, strangely enough, the entry of other channels. There is so much clutter on TV that audiences seek the familiar. So, good old Harry Potter, Rush Hour or The Godfather are familiar films that you can settle down with and relax at any point. Unlike a TV serial, the plot is not unfamiliar, nor are the faces. “Eighty nine per cent of the viewership on a movie channel comes from library runs,” points out Trigunayat.
This familiarity, combined with the language, is what attracts advertisers. “There is a premium on the English audience and movies are stickier (as a genre),” thinks Satyajit Sen, CEO, Zenith Optimedia, a media planning and buying firm.
The long tail
In many ways television is acting as the long tail for English films. Typically, Hollywood films (and therefore English ones) get about 5-7 per cent of the total box office revenues in India. It is a proportion that has remained stubbornly constant in a market that largely relishes local fare. But, the fact is that there is an audience for English cinema — not just in Mumbai or Delhi, but in Raipur or Coimbatore too. Since this smaller audience cannot be reached economically through theatres, television is doing that job. That is good news for everybody.