'Mars' mops up more for NGC than 'Everest'

MUMBAI: Mission Mars, the 12 part special on the human mission to the red planet on National Geographic Channel, has turned out to be a bigger revenue spinner for the channel than last year's opus, Mission Everest.



While NGC senior VP, programming Dilshad Master is averse to revealing figures, she says advertising earned from Mission Mars has exceeded the heights set by the Everest series, which had accounted for 17 per cent of ad revenues last fiscal. The Mars series, that started in January this year, is set to come to a close by the end of this month. "Although we cannot hope to ever recover costs of such kinds of programming (the filming of Mission Mars cost the National Geographic an estimated $ 2 million), Mars has definitely helped bring in revenues for NGC India," says Master.

The multi media campaign launched to lure in the eyeballs fetched handsome returns, says Master, as one of the episodes telecast thus far ranked sixth among top 10 shows aired at 8 pm, across channels. "For an infotainment channel to achieve this is a big thing," she says. So, while Everest last year helped the channel to "frogleap into the big league," Mars has helped consolidate that position. The series was planned to coincide with Nasa's probes landing on Mars early this year, and provides an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Nasa. The channel also offered a special peek into works of the scientists at the Jet propulsion laboratory in California, the masterminds of the Mars space programme.

MARTIAL ARTS SPECIAL: Apart from the seven-part special on martial arts, hosted by Bollywood star Akshay Kumar that will begin airing 9 May, NGC India has another localised programming special up its sleeve that it intends to unleash in October or November this year, but Master is not revealing more. NGC's reach in India has grown from 21 million homes in 2002 to between 25 and 27 million households, thanks mainly to the local flavour provided by campaigns like Everest and regional feeds like Hindi and Tamil, the hours of which Master says will not be increased this year.

The History Channel, an NGC sibling that launched 30 November last year and claimed to have hit 15 million households on the first day itself, had set itself a target of 25 million households by the end of June 2004. Master says the target will be met by the deadline.

THC is yet to make a dent in the niche infotainment channel scene, but the proposed long term goal of NGC to source 10 per cent of the programming for History from India by 2007 should help in hiking viewership. Master, who oversees the programming of the History Channel too, says several programme plans have been drawn up.

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