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HBO challenges Indian perceptions

News, 26 February 2016
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NEW DELHI: The recent revamp of HBO in India is aimed at altering viewer perceptions and appealing to a wider audience, a top executive has explained.

Rohit Bhandari, Senior Director and Network Head English entertainment at Turner International, which runs the HBO movie channel business in India, told the Business Standard that a 2015 survey had thrown up some unexpected findings and led to the changes.

"The survey revealed three important things," he said, including the fact that seven in ten viewers outside of the metros watched English movie channels primarily to familiarise themselves with the language rather than for pure entertainment purposes.

Another discovery was that HBO viewers in small towns preferred the action and comedy genres, while some even said they were intimidated by the channel's colours and looks.

"In the feedback we got from viewers, we realised that the way the channel and its logo looked has a more universal/global appeal almost bordering on noir – a classic genre associated with dark drama and crime," Bhandari said. "The perception was that the channel was niche."

Accordingly the brand's traditional black and white logo was rethought. "In India, colours catch the eye and help recall," he said, "so we went from the monochromatic packaging to one using red and blue."

That move aimed to make the brand "less intimidating and more relatable", a shift that will be reinforced as the channel includes in its programming more movies with mass appeal. But Bhandari added that HBO would continue to show offbeat films with niche appeal, just not at prime times.

The combination appears to be working, as the latest BARC data shows HBO to be the third-most watched English movie channel, ahead of Zee Studio and Sony PIx, but behind Movies Now and STAR Movies.

Data sourced from Business Standard; additional content by Warc staff

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