History Channel to debut on 30 Nov, sets ambitious targets

MUMBAI: The one of a kind channel solely dedicated to historical programming - The History Channel - will make its debut in India on the Star Network on 30 November.

This represents a delay of just a week when at Mipcom AETN International, the division of A&E Television Networks had announced the date of 23 November. AETN international markets The History Channel outside the US.

It has set itself the ambitious target of reaching 25 million subscribers by June 2004. Addressing a briefing this morning NGC India MD Zubin Gandevia said that AETN international had chosen the Star platform because of the success that NGC has enjoyed. "National Geographic is the fourth most distributed channel in the country. We have successful engagement programmes with cable operators and we will seek to leverage our relationship with them to achieve the distribution target. When we launch we will straight away be in 15 million homes. Our aim is to be a brand that every family considers a must have. We have also set ourselves the target of a 20 per cent weekly reach by June."

Initially the channel will also have a two-hour Hindi feed everyday. This will increase to 24 hours by June. The cornerstone of the History Channel's programme line up will be its series Biography. Elaborating on the strategy Gandevia added, "Research has indicated that Indians have a strong preference for personality led programming. They tend to identify strongly with famous faces. Therefore Biography will air every night in the prime time slot of 10pm. Viewers will get to see historical figures like Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi get profiled."

The History Channel's other shows will involve Spy and Espionage, War, Crime and Technology. "The challenge for us is to make history which has been considered traditionally as boring to be innovative and interesting and most importantly relevant to the viewers lives. The entertainment quotient is also vital. The History Channel launched in 1995 and today is available in 150 million households in 70 countries.

"The broadcaster has succeeded because it has always aimed at making a global product around a subject that has global appeal. Over time it has evolved into a creative, distinct brand for the family. Everybody can sit in front of it and learn and be entertained. Our USP is that we offer content that parents would strongly approve of. Having said that research indicates that our core audience would be males 25+ and kids from 7-16," Gandevia said.

Gandevia also mentioned that The History Channel has got over 2000 hours of original programming. The aim is to keep adding 500 hours each year. A long-term goal of the channel is to have 10 per cent of The History Channel's programmes outsourced from India by 2007. As time progresses the broadcaster will progress into locally themed shows with a global appeal.

Star will be using its network to create awareness about the channel. In addition the print and outdoor mediums will also be used. Another promotion could revolve around the Greatest Indian. People could send in their votes online as to whom they think is the greatest Indian of all time. BBC had earlier done this for The Greatest Briton. However the price of The History Channel has yet to be announced. 

BBC, ITV and Villiage Roadshow are some of The History

Channel's production partners. Gandevia said that this helped to keep costs down.

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