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HBO bats recession with mega movies in IPL season 2
MUMBAI: The recession bug is beginning to bite the premier English movie channel HBO in India.

Having posted a 12-15 per cent growth in revenues last year, HBO is cautious on its growth targets and has started reviewing its marketing spends.

"The industry is seeing a slowdown and advertisers have started weighing their spends. It is the right time to make corrections. We have started reviewing our marketing spends on a quarter-to-quarter basis," says HBO South Asia country manager Shruti Bajpai.

The big drive for the year, however, will be to hook on to the IPL fever with high voltage movies placed just after the Twenty20 matches.

HBO has christened its new offering as Hollywood Premier League (HPL) to ride on the buzz that the cash-rich IPL tourney has generated nationwide. The draw will include the best box office performers every night after the 9 pm movie, starting 1 April.

"The second season of IPL is going to be twice as exciting with HPL lined up just after the matches. It will be our biggest and most extravagant offering," says Bajpai.

HPL will run all through April, May and June with titles such as American Gangster, No Country For Old Men, Rush Hour 3, Spiderman 3, Transformers, Gladiator, Blood Diamond, The Departed and Mission Impossible 2.

The package will also have critically acclaimed movies like Kite Runner and Mighty Heart.

HBO has already lined up nine sponsors for the mega-viewing window. "We have roped in nine co-presenters for the event. These include Airtel Digital TV, Appy Fizz, Roca, Hitachi, Spark Chevrolet, British Airways, Karizma and Turkey Tourism," says Bajpai.

HBO will back up the content with a targeted marketing campaign. Conceptualised by creative agency Mudra, the channel will kick off the muti-media HPL campaign across various platforms including television, print, radio, internet and the mobile.

The campaigns will be run as a phase-wise activity. Connex handles the media account for the channel.

"We have already started airing HPL promos across the Turner Network and are looking at freezing on five to six other channels to promote the event. The channel mix will, of course, include news, entertainment and youth," Bajpai adds.

For print, HBO will kick-off its first HPL campaign on 20 March. "It will be a multi-city campaign wherein we will build up new ads in every phase of activity for the next three months. We will also be exploring innovative options on sports pages during the IPL season," Bajpai elaborates.

HBO will use the internet and mobile platform to send mailers and sms reminders to consumers respectively.

FM radio will be used extensively to promote the event. During the announcement phase, the channel plans to run a 10-day extensive multi-city campaign across radio networks.

"The choice of the station will depend on the advertising costs and reach that the station exhibits," says Bajpai.

HBO will, however, not use out-of-home (OOH) for the HPL campaign. "We are looking at 'much targeted' marketing to reach out to the right set of audiences," Bajpai explains.

Post HPL, HBO will come up with non-movie programming formats.

So how does Bajpai view the launch of WB which will have access to the Warner movie library?

"Being a sister channel, this will complement our offerings from Turner. Also, as per our agreement with Warner Brothers, Paramount, Sony Pictures and Universal Studios, HBO holds the first rights to air the movies coming from their studios. So, I don't see any threat coming from any end," she says.

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