Discovery goes in for image change

Discovery Channel is turning from a staid edutainment channel to a zippy clued in channel come 1 April. Not content with a slew of new programming initiatives directed at specific audiences and distinct advertisers, the channel aims to go south with a vengeance within the next four months. The success of the Hindi audio feed has inspired the channel to launch either a Tamil or a Telugu audio feed soon, says Discovery Communications India managing director Deepak Shourie.

The new look Discovery, touted as an Alternate Channel for viewers tired of soap and film, will have nine special time bands for women, kids, youth, family and even a special late night band for adults. The bands, classified as Sunrise, Woman's Hour, Amazing Animals, Discovery Kids, Action Zone, Family Time, Friday Showcase, Perfect Ten, Late Night Discovery and Discovery Weekends are not a new concept though. The channel had proposed to launch the bands in October 2001. Shourie says the channel delayed the relaunch to test initial responses; the events of 11 September provided the other lag. The new programmes will focus on adventure, arts, aviation, crime, romance, sexual behaviour, sports, travel and wars.

This initiative puts Discovery's earlier plan of launching two new channels, Discovery Health and Discovery Travel & Adventure on the back burner, as Shourie says all the elements have been incorporated in the new look Discovery itself. The channel meanwhile has already withdrawn content being aired on Vijay TV, and that on Doordarshan channels, Metro and Bharati will be stopped by the end of this month. The new look Discovery is already being promoted in a big way with hoardings splashed across the metros, ads put out in print and on the tube, all created by an in house team. DCI's other baby, Animal Planet, which has been trudging along at a negligible pace, is also due for a shot in the arm in the next two months, says Shourie.

Discovery currently has 70,000 hours of software in its library and is adding 3000 hours every year. Explaining the logic behind not stressing on Indian content, Shourie says it costs the channel $ 1.5 million per hour to produce content, an investment that should be worthy of being beamed worldwide. "I too would look forward to programmes filmed in India that could be telecast everywhere," he says.

The channel maintains that Discovery is today the sixth most widely distributed channel in the country and reaches over 21 million households. After programmes were realigned to audience viewing habits in 2001, prime time viewership went up by 21 per cent, kids' band viewership by 20 per cent and women's band viewership by 43 per cent, claims the channel.

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