Jaldi 5 with Sunil Punjabi: Action, drama, entertainment

23 Nov,2012

Sony Pictures Television Networks Asia is geared up for its next original production, The Apprentice Asia, which will premiere on AXN across 21 countries in Asia in the first half of 2013. Call for participation for the India region began on November 15. We asked Sunil Punjabi, Business Head, AXN India Networks, why the channel needs The Apprentice.


01. Programmes like The Apprentice and reality shows in the same genre have not done very well in India earlier. And this series will premiere across Asia. What was the rationale behind bringing the show on board?

As far as The Apprentice and other reality shows are concerned, programmes that have some amount of interactivity built in tend to do better than plain shows that go on air. We ourselves did India’s Minute to Win It two years ago, and we built in a fairly large amount of interactivity. With the amount of interactivity and local presence, content offtake is higher because the viewer also starts engaging with the programme. Hence, engagement at the consumer level with localization is going to be the big differentiating factor for such shows.


For The Apprentice at the Asia level, participants will be taking part from India in the selection process. It is where we believe local flavour comes in. Apprentice Asia should see better traction on the ground.


02. How is AXN planning to create buzz around the show?

We have pushed in the online campaign, apart from opening for entries on November 15. We are doing a lot of ground activation, contacting some 150-odd corporates across six cities with the aim of reaching working people one-on-one.


We will reveal more plans as we come close to the airing of the show.


03. Does The Apprentice or Minute to Win It gel with the programming of AXN, which essentially is Action TV?

We have always been a thrill channel, and thrill can be action or drama. Or even dance. If you look at our top shows like So You Think You Can Dance, it is all about excitement. It is a very high-energy show and it gets the eyeballs, apart from other top-rated high-drama series like CSI and CIS, Leverage, Supernatural and Amazing Race. These are content blocks with lots of thrill built in, and that is the positioning that we’ve always maintained.


India’s Minute To Win It – every activity that you look is based on the excitement. For that matter, Apprentice is going to be one challenging task. If you see the US and UK versions, every task that participants go through is time-based and there is heavy involvement in these episodes. And that is how it fits into AXN.


04. Is AXN aiming to include all genres in its programming, and thus moving away from the original concept of an action channel?

We have broadened the perspective. We have broadened the content line-up because at the end of the day we believe that there is a lot of International content, which can be brought to the India viewer. Apprentice has never been done in India, it has been done only in the US and UK. Actually, we are looking at an Indian version of Amazing Race soon. These are high-intensity formats.


We believe that consumers want different types of content. The revised positioning of AXN is based on the consumer feedback that we have got over a period of time saying that they need more programmes that are high-energy.


05. Apart from The Apprentice, which other non-action shows is AXN targeting?

Amazing Race will start in January. There is Voice 4, which is slated for March. A strong drama series of Steven Seagal called True Justice 2 will be coming up also in January. It is a 12-part one-hour series that we are launching as part of Big Thrill Fridays, which is positioned around fresh and as-close-to-US-launch content. There is a new series of Leverage, a modern-day Robinhood series, which will begin in the month of Feb-March. An original production of Sony Pictures, Hannibal, will debut in March. It is an original AXN US production.


It is a fairly good mix of high-drama, high-action, high-energy entertainment.


As told to Ananya Saha


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