STAR India, the broadcast network that runs sports and entertainment channels in India, will launch its third English movie channel on Thursday. An exclusively high-definition (HD) channel, STAR Movies Select, will showcase movies that are beyond the mass-appealing and action flicks that are aired on its existing offerings - STAR Movies and STAR Movies Action.
"The insights we got from our studies was that there is a discerning audience that wants to watch story-led, non-action oriented movies," says Kevin Vaz, business head-English cluster at STAR India. "They value the content that is off the beaten track and value the experience that HD offers in terms of visual and sound quality. With close to 4.5 million HD households in the country, there is a market to capture."
The channel will launch across direct-to-home and digital cable platforms and will be available wherever STAR Movies HD is. However, given that it is solely an HD offering, DTH players will play a more significant role in the distribution of the channel. All leading DTH players have put their focus on HD subscriptions and have been getting good traction in this segment over the past few quarters. Industry estimates peg the reach of English movie channels at 70 million a month (unique viewers) and 40 million a week.
The English entertainment space has seen some action in the past month, with this launch being the third announcement of its kind. Earlier last week, Time Network relaunched its HD English movies channel Movies Now Plus as MN+ with a new packaging and refreshed movie line-up. That was followed by the announcement of the new English entertainment offering from Viacom18 called Colors Infinity. While the latter is more focussed on the television shows space and will only air documentaries in terms of movies, MN+ is positioned as a premium movie channel with standard definition and HD feeds.
Vaz, however, disagrees that there is a clutter in this space or that STAR Movies Select will be confused with other brands. "For one thing, when we say fresh movies, we mean never-before-seen on Indian television. We have an output deals with three of the leading studios in Hollywood, which among them account for 50 to 60 per cent of the top rated films every year. With 21st Century Fox, we have an exclusive output deal, which means that the films that come to us from there, will stay only with us. With NBC Universal and Disney, we have first output deals, which means that the movies will first come to us, and then other networks can bid for them. Also, we intend to get movies that have not got a theatrical release in India for any reason. It is with this preparation we have gone with the proposition of '365 stories in 365 days'. The name itself indicates that we have the most premium and quality movies in the industry." The channel will launch with the promise that there will be one premiere every night at 9 pm, which is the prime-time slot in the genre. Apart from this, there will be movie festivals across genres such as murder mysteries, true stories, biopics and book adaptations, among others. All in all, the channel will have 50 premieres in its first year itself.
The packaging of the channel is "clean and minimalistic", Vaz says but refuses to reveal further. He, however, does reveal the brands that have come on board as sponsors. Pernod Ricard has come on board as a channel partner and will be sponsoring the major festivals and premieres on the channel. Apart from this, other brands to have already come on board include BMW, Flipkart, Hindware, Jockey, Bluestone and Yamaha, among others. The channel will have 12 minutes of advertising per clock hour, in keeping with the regulations set by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.