Discovery plumbs the depths of the seas with 'Blue Planet'

MUMBAI: If it's Everest for National Geographic then for Discovery the trick to hooking viewers lies at the bottom of the ocean! The channel has announced that it will air the critically acclaimed 10-episode natural history series Blue Planet from 23 January. The show will air every Thursday at 8 pm, with repeats on Saturday at 9 am and Sundays at 1 pm.

Speaking about the initiative MD Discovery Networks India Deepak Shourie said: "Although 70 per cent of the Earth is covered by water our knowledge of the seas below has thus far been very limited."

Filmed over five years in over 200 locations at a cost of seven million pounds involving 3000 days in the field, this series, which is a co-production between the BBC and Discovery, goes 3000 metres below the surface to unearth new species and habitats of the deep seas. The series is narrated by Sir David Attenborough."

Shourie asserts that the last eight months has seen some major advances on both the programming as well as distribution front. "From April we addressed consumer concerns by scheduling programmes at times convenient to different viewers of the family. We also expanded the width of content to cover a gamut of topics including travel, adventure, health, crime, science," says Shourie.

"We have stolen a march over rival National Geographic. As per Tam data for october, we had a 65 per cent higher viewership during the day and 94 per cent more viewers between 7 pm and midnight. However we are not planning to dub programmes in further languages apart from English, Hindi and Tamil. We are also not launching any more channels from the Discovery stable in the country this year. We will focus on Animal Planet towards the end of the year."

Shourie believes that the introduction of conditional access systems in the country would be good for special interest channels like Discovery. "Whether it succeeds or fails will depend on how well it is implemented and though other channels will get affected Discovery is a very well liked brand across demographics. So we will not get impacted," says Shourie.

"On the advertising front we have grown by 50 per cent in the past one year. 330 brands now advertise on Discovery," Shourie says.

As far as other programme initiatives are concerned Shourie says: "In February, Discovery presents a two-hour special on the World War II German battleship Bismarck. Directed by James Titanic Cameron Bismarck travels to the bottom of the sea to film the remains of the original ship and recreates on of the most famous naval battles of the second world war.

Several new series such as Great Romances of the 20th Century, Kitchen Chemistry and Great Crimes and Trials will also be aired this quarter. Great romances will deal with couples such as Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. What drove them together and pulled some of them apart. Kitchen Chemistry deals with the art of cooking. Chef Heston Blumenthal listens to scientific principles and uses them as inspiration to create a special dish every week.

"We have been working towards making our Late Night Discovery slot compulsive viewing and this is when Great Crimes and Trails will air. It reconstructs the acts of serial killers, mass murderers," Shourie says.

The channel will also air Brother of Jesus on 20 April as an Easter Special. This deals with the recent finding of a bone box dating back to the time of Jesus. The Aramic inscription reads "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus".

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