Indian broadcasting industry is on the cusp of transformation, says Rahul Johri

The year 2014 has been a remarkable one for Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific (DNAP). It announced the launch of three new channels in India, in May. Widely recognised for enhancing the television viewing experience in India over the last two decades, Discovery launched a refreshing new concept Hindi entertainment channel named ID - Investigation Discovery.

The company also expanded its HD offering with the launch of two differentiated gold standard channels - TLC HD World and Animal Planet HD World.

The year saw Rahul Johri being promoted to the role of executive vice president and general manager, South Asia and head of revenue, pan-regional ad sales and Southeast Asia. And the end of the 10-year joint venture distribution company with Multi Screen Media (MSM).

DNAP south Asia and southeast Asia GM and executive VP Rahul Johri talks about the high and low points of the year.

What has been the highlight for the year for Discovery Networks?

Discovery Networks launched three new channels in 2014. Today, we operate in six unique genres through our robust portfolio of 11 networks reaching a cumulative 260 million homes in five languages. Extending our brand experience beyond television, we made a foray in print with the launch of Discovery Channel Magazine. We expanded our business fuelled by marquee initiatives – new channels, unmatched India productions and marketing innovations.

Continuing to offer the widest repertoire of programmes, we launched more than 300 high-quality programmes catering to the interests, passions and demands of children, youth, women, men and families. We strengthened our India content slate with unprecedented 100 original hours in the last two years bringing unique stories, pristine subjects, and exclusive accesses.

Some of the path-breaking India productions on Discovery Channel and TLC include programmes like Revealed: National Defence Academy, Revealed: The Line of Control, Revealed: World’s Biggest Election, India: Living Traditions, Ravinder’s Kitchen, Trinny & Susannah’s Makeover Mission India and The Great Indian World Trip amongst many others. We have recently launched Revealed: Rann of Kutch, an extraordinaire account of the seasonal salt marsh located in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

We launched ID – our distinct and high-quality investigative channel. Our research findings revealed that Indian viewers have immense appetite to watch true investigation and crime based narratives if presented in an entertaining way. We identified this vacuum and created a segment within the Hindi entertainment genre.

As a pioneer in high-definition, we further extended our leadership in this genre with the launch of TLC HD World and Animal Planet HD World.

To broaden the appeal of Discovery Turbo, we have refreshed the brand with new logo, new identity and have expanded its content offering to suit tastes and preferences of male audiences.

We are committed to offer the finest viewing experience and differentiated offerings to viewers and maximum value to our trade partners. Our expansion over the past few years and the matching success is a reflection of India’s significance in the world of Discovery.


What was the challenging phase faced by Discovery Networks this year?

I have often said that digitisation has brought new opportunities and challenges in equal measure. Competition has got fiercer. Viewer fragmentation is a reality. Innovations are making the existing channels look traditional. In short, one has to be ahead of the rest to enjoy viewers, affiliates and advertisers’ confidence. However, whichever way one looks, the benefits far out shadows the challenges.

The year 2014 marked to be the year of opportunities for Discovery.  We expanded our portfolio with the launch of three new channels and the launch of Discovery Channel India Magazine.

Discovery had some of most path-breaking India productions like Revealed: National Defence Academy, Revealed: The Line of Control, Revealed: World’s Biggest Election, India: Living Traditions; and our first local animated series KISNA on Discovery Kids.

Benefiting from digitisation, all our channels have witnessed viewership growth this year.  Discovery Kids jumped by 80 per cent and Discovery Science’s viewership grew by 39 per cent over last year.  Animal Planet recorded lifetime high ratings in the channel’s 20-year presence in India.  Propelled by engaging content, nationwide penetration and innovative campaigns, Animal Planet has registered 16 per cent rise in viewership this year.  Building strong affinity with its viewers, Animal Planet has surpassed History TV18 ratings this year, increasing its gap to 10 per cent for the YTD period.


How did the Indian broadcast industry fare in 2104?

Indian broadcasting industry is on the cusp of a transformation.  Undoubtedly, digitisation has been the biggest change the industry is experiencing. It will help drive up the value of differentiated and high quality content and thus will naturally benefit Discovery’s channels.  We support this drive and believe it will be a milestone achievement for the country and generate higher value for all stakeholders especially the viewers.

The other milestone should be the new audience measurement system – BARC, which should create new value system for the broadcast sector.


High points and low points for the brands…

India is a vast country with diverse needs and attitudes. Indian viewer is discerning and appreciates variety of content. Discovery has catered to this need with its wide ranging bouquet of 11 networks from factual, lifestyle, kids’, high-definition to Hindi entertainment. Our compelling programming repertoire spans genres including science, exploration, survival, natural history, technology, space, health and wellness, engineering, crime and investigation, civilizations, kids and more. We have been able to lead in the respective genres through our commitment to deliver on the brand promise.

Today’s viewer is well travelled, aware and has experienced finer things of life demanding a mix of India and international content in the comfort of his home. Discovery Networks, through its eclectic programming mix across networks offers the right blend of India and international content. We have consistently presented India themes that can travel the world and international themes relevant to India. We have surprised and delighted the viewer with some of our extraordinary shows giving them an opportunity to watch and enjoy once in a lifetime experiences such as Skyscraper Live with Nik Wallenda – a LIVE event which has been a huge hit all over the world. Another one to air on December 31 will be Eaten Alive, which is an attempt to be eaten alive by an anaconda.

Offering credible and high-quality content 24 hours x 365 days consistently, Discovery is missioned to satisfy the curiosity of Indian viewers. The audience, advertisers and affiliates expect nothing less than the finest from Discovery.

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