Sony Pix revises script on brand engagement

In 2012, Sony Pix, the English movie channel from Sony Pictures Networks India (earlier called Multi Screen Media India) became the first channel to move away from Hollywood-led positioning, to the proposition of 'Stay Amazed'. In line with this new positioning, the channel changed its on-air packaging to blue and neon colours.

The Saurabh Yagnik-led channel will now enter the second phase of brand building from January which focuses on scaling up the content library and strengthening the 'Pix' brand in the viewer's mind.

  • The channel holds premiers of movies under the Pix Premier Nights property. For the latest such release — James Bond Spectre — the channel created a fan engagement zone where viewers could click pictures with Bond iconography, including an Aston Martin.
  • The channel also organises contests where fans can win Hollywood movie experiences and memorabilia from blockbuster sets as prizes.

"With English movie channels, the challenge is that there is little or no scope for appointment-viewing. Unlike general entertainment channels, we do not have a show to build viewer loyalty to a time slot. In such a case, one has to be the first choice of viewing within the genre. So while earlier we broke away from the norm and changed the packaging and positioning, in the next phase - which we call Sony Pix v. 2.0 - we have scaled up the library and will embed 'Pix' in as many time slots as possible," says Yagnik, executive vice president and business head for the English channel cluster at Sony Picture Networks.

The strategy has evolved from understanding the needs of the core audience. Sony Pix established 'Scale, Style and Talkability' as three key filters for all the efforts on the channel. These three elements will form the core of the Pix v.2.0 strategy. The channel, which had 40 premiers in 2015, will ramp this number up to 70 in 2016, including premiers of movies like Jurassic World, Fast and Furious 7, Hungers Games Mockingjay part 2 and The Walk. According to sources, the movies premiering on the channel in 2016 have collectively grossed close to Rs 50,000 crore in box office revenues globally.

As part of the exercise, Sony Pix now has one of the largest number of output deals with Hollywood studios which includes Disney, Lionsgate, Universal, MGM and of course, Sony Pictures. As a result, it has beefed up its library with popular franchises like the Bond series, the Fast and Furious series, the Rocky series, the Twilight Saga and Disney's Marvel's Avengers, including the five Spiderman movies. The content library has not come cheap and experts say that the channel has almost doubled its content acquisition spends over the past couple of years.

Yagnik refused to comment on spends, but said that content acquisition costs are significant in the English movie business. "While there is a year on year increase, we also have to factor in the weakening rupee (since transactions with Hollywood studio take place in dollars) and then some amount of competitive bidding. So yes, to have such a varied content library, we have upped spends significantly. But in the end it is all about running a profitable business. We have seen a corresponding increase in revenues as well over the past three years," he says.

Since content on the channel will depend on the output by Hollywood studios, Yagnik and team have put efforts towards building properties on the channel for various time slots. And these properties are being used to 'pixify' the brand's engagement with the audience. As a result, all the properties have the word 'Pix' in them like Pixathon (back to back movies from a series or franchise), HandPix (ground-breaking critically acclaimed movies) and Pix on Toast (earlier called Sunday Breakout in the Sunday mid-morning time slot). Additionally, Sony Pix will be the first to have tune-in voiceovers by a female artist. Currently, all the tune-in promos on all the English movie channels use a male voiceover.

According to Broadcaster Audience Research Council ratings data, Sony Pix is currently at the number three spot. Yagnik aims to break into the top two with the line-up of movies on Sony Pix in 2016. It currently holds a 17 per cent market share in terms of viewership, behind Star Movies (18 per cent) and Movies Now (23 per cent).

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