BBC revenue growth in 2002 'significant'

NEW DELHI: Continuing to be bullish on the Indian market, BBC World feels that the subcontinent still offers the channel great potential in terms of revenue and audience, according to a senior executive of the channel.

"Revenue has grown significantly in the (calendar) year 2002 globally. Within India, the growth has been significant and it is more significant now," Jonathan Howlett, director of airtime sales, BBC World, told today in an interview.

Howlett also said that as part of a strategy to increase audience share which will result into increased advertising revenue, BBC World is also tapping directly "tertiary and secondary markets" like Germany, the Philippines, Indonesia as also parts of Eastern Europe.

According to Howlett, India becomes more significant as a market for BBC World (India is the only market in the world where BBC is ahead of its main competitor CNN) as there is a new interest amongst advertisers and media planners for news channels as a vehicle for carrying messages.

"I see that the mental block which probably was there earlier amongst advertisers that BBC World is a niche channel and that too a global news channel is going away," Howlett said, adding, "I also see that there is a new interest for news channels (as a vehicle) in India and it is in my interest that I closely follow what is happening in the market and what the other (news) channels are doing."

A person who has come to India quite often, Howlett has sniffed out that not only is the Delhi air more clean (than when he was last here) now, but there are business opportunities in India which need to be exploited to offset some less robust markets elsewhere in the world.

"There is greater connectivity between India and the rest of the world today and vice versa," Howlett said, pointing out that the channel is getting more queries (on advertising) from companies in the US, for example, for advertising in India.

"I'd say that the Indian market is more robust than several other markets and that is why we feel there are opportunities here," he said.

Howlett feels that since BBC World is targeting the "upscale" audience in mostly SEC A and B categories, in a way even National Geographic is a competition (for BBC) in India.

According to him, the need of the hour is to focus on existing properties on the channel (like Top Gear, Asia Business News in the morning and Mastermind India) and "crystallise" them rather than go about collecting more local content.

"The agenda is to focus on India and exploit the channel as we have it rather than getting more local content or commission Indian TV production houses," Howlett said.

Does that mean that BBC is actually cutting down or going in for a status quo where its India-specific localisation bid is concerned? Howlett is quick to see the 'journalistic trap' and points out: "I am not saying anything of that sort. What I am saying is that we must focus more on the existing product rather than go about trying to change it drastically."

Though Howlett is absolutely mum on any sort of figures, making a point on relevance of India at present, he said that any given time some 40-odd brands advertise on the channel, out of which about 50-60 per cent would be from India or of those companies who want to target India.

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