Television

'Discovery identifies India as a growth market' : Discovery Communications India SVP Rahul Johri

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Discovery Communications India is readying for a major expansion to ride on India’s rapidly growing digital pay-TV environment. The roadmap includes the launch of three channels – Discovery Science, Discovery HD and Discovery Turbo.

The existing three channels – Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Discovery Travel and Living – have built distinct brand propositions. And as the viewership pattern is shifting particularly in the non-fiction genre, Discovery hopes to capitalise.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com’s Ashwin Pinto, Discovery Communications India senior vice president Rahul Johri talks about the company’s growth plans.

Excerpts:

Having got the government nod, when are you planning to launch the three new channels?

We are finalising the launch plans. Discovery Turbo will be India‘s first male lifestyle channel. Discovery Science will be dedicated to make science programming accessible, relevant and entertaining. Discovery HD, on the other hand, offers programming in 1080i with 5.1 surround sound, far superior to both NTSC and PAL. It lends itself perfectly to the type of rich and spectacular images that Discovery is renowned for.

How are you going to tackle distribution?

We have planned to launch Discovery Science and Discovery Turbo on both analogue and digital platforms. Discovery HD will be launched on the digital platform.

Do you see niche channels gain as the digital environment grows?

We currently have three distinct networks in India, each with immense brand equity. Digital platform, besides offering an enhanced viewing experience and an increased choice to viewers, demonstrates the real value of the brands and their unique propositions. Companies with strong bouquet of channels, be it mass or niche, will certainly stand to gain as the digital penetration goes up in India.

Do you see the new channels broadening the audience base for infotainment?

Viewers today are looking for distinct and credible content. We are witnessing a dramatic shift in the viewing patterns in India, especially in the non-fiction genre where our channels dominate.

Considering that 60 per cent of India‘s population is under 30 years of age, this trend should only get amplified in the coming years. Each of our channels, existing and planned, has a distinct brand proposition and will resonate with viewers, advertisers and affiliates alike.

There has been a lot of talk about how HD is changing the television viewing experience globally. But at the moment the infrastructure is not there to support this in India. How does this impact the launch plans for Discovery HD?

India is witnessing a substantial increase in the sale of HD-technology TV sets. With the growth of digital delivery platforms, HD would emerge as a premium offering.

Besides, we like to be ahead of the curve, be it in our programme offerings or production technologies.

‘Viewers today are looking for distinct and credible content. We are witnessing a dramatic shift in the viewing patterns in India, especially in the non-fiction genre where our channels dominate‘

In terms of revenue where does India stack up vis-a-vis other Asian markets like Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea?

India has a considerable viewer and advertiser base and has been identified as a growth market for Discovery.

Do you expect revenue growth this year given the economic downturn?

It is my belief that leaders in respective categories will be least affected. Going by the current environment, we would be able to achieve our targets.

What are the challenges that Discovery and other players in the infotainment space face this year?

The challenge is to continuously refresh the programming to suit the viewers‘ changing demands. At the same time you have to maintain the brand‘s core propositions.

Last year Animal Planet re-branded itself globally with a more adult-centric focus. How has this been reflected in India?

Animal Planet revealed its fresh brand identity last year. Its new show line-up reflects intense drama, rich humour, unexpected choices and wonders of the animal kingdom.

In order to strengthen its prime time slots, the channel introduced two new programme bands. Masters Of The Jungle at 9 pm takes viewers to meet the most celebrated wildlife experts from around the world who have dedicated their lives to animals.

The Hunt at 8 pm presents nature‘s predators in their raw and merciless form every night. There has been a ratings increase.

Has the look and feel been changed to reflect the channel‘s aggression?

The new logo, communication and content allow viewers an immersive experience. Introducing new time bands, Masters of the Jungle, The Hunt and multiple new titles like Jockeys and Animal Gladiator; the channel today offers a close-up encounter with wildlife.

What are the major programming properties coming up on the channel?

From this month, Animal Planet‘s new series, Stranger Among Bears, will reveal the isolated life of a teacher who has received national attention for his unique but controversial relationship with the black grizzly bears for last 20 years.

We will launch a new series in the Master of the Jungle band - Into The Pride in which the host Dave Salmoni will land himself in the middle of a ride of lions with just a walking stick. In a remarkable story of the bond between man and animal, we will present a reunion between two young men and a 500 pound pet lion in A Lion called Christian.

Discovery Travel and Living has completed five years in India. What progress has it made in boosting lifestyle programming in the country and serving the SEC A+ demographic?

Discovery Travel and Living has emerged as the definitive lifestyle channel in India. Surpassing all lifestyle television benchmarks, it has continuously added new genres, bringing the finest experience to its discerning audience. Even this year, it added three new genres - music, dance and relationship.

On the Indian programming front, it explored unique Indian lifestyle themes - wedding, travel, food, fashion and hotels. It recently premiered a new series with one of India‘s leading columnists and food writer Vir Sanghvi. And in the biggest of all shows, we will present a series on India‘s biggest superstar Shah Rukh Khan, where for the first time ever viewers will be taken into his private and exclusive world.

Has there been any change in strategy compared to previous years?

Our focus has been to expand the existing genres like food, travel, fashion and makeover while at the same time adding new genres like music, fitness and relationship. We strengthened our prime time offerings with two strong bands - What A Life at 9 pm and Turn It On at 10 pm. Our efforts to up the weekend offerings with Brunch on Sundays and day time properties like Chew at 1 pm presented good results.



On the advertising front, are clients more cautious in terms of committing spends?

We value our advertisers and believe in long term associations. Just like in the past, we will continue to offer higher values to our advertisers.

 

On the advertising front, are clients more cautious in terms of committing spends?

We value our advertisers and believe in long term associations. Just like in the past, we will continue to offer higher values to our advertisers.



Has there been any change in strategy compared to previous years?

Our focus has been to expand the existing genres like food, travel, fashion and makeover while at the same time adding new genres like music, fitness and relationship. We strengthened our prime time offerings with two strong bands - What A Life at 9 pm and Turn It On at 10 pm. Our efforts to up the weekend offerings with Brunch on Sundays and day time properties like Chew at 1 pm presented good results.



On the advertising front, are clients more cautious in terms of committing spends?

We value our advertisers and believe in long term associations. Just like in the past, we will continue to offer higher values to our advertisers.

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