The vehemently tailored factual entertainment genre in India


The factual entertainment channels' genre in India has seen rapid growth over the last couple of years. While the big daddies of factual entertainment like Discovery,National Geographic Channel and HistoryTV18 have already carved out a niche for themselves with a balanced mix of international and localised content,a few new channels have also sprung up,which are trying to make their mark. What's more,with a handful of more channels slated to launch soon,the genre is poised to get a huge impetus.

The genre has shaped effectively due to key factors like digitisation,change in lifestyle and localised content amongst others. Breaking away from the soaps and movies,it is observed that the demand for non-fiction and reality content is on the rise.

The entire genre,both in terms of share and viewership has grown exceptionally,by providing a great breeding ground for advertisers to effectively target a larger number of niche audience. Viewers now are demanding good quality entertainment with a blend of enrichment and learning.

According to the FICCI-KPMG M&E report 2015,the factual entertainment genre enjoys a viewership share of 1.3 per cent of the total market,higher than the 0.9 per cent of English Entertainment and 0.1 per cent of English News,while the genre's AdEx share stands at two per cent of Rs 175 billion ad spends for 2015.

India is a young and diverse country,where viewers have a high demand for inspirational programming. They want to be informed and entertained at the same time. Television viewing in India has undergone a dramatic shift over the last decade. The change has come into play owing to factors like tastes and preferences of the audience,competition in the TV entertainment industry as well as changes in regulation. Though the factual entertainment genre is not that diverse,apart from the pioneers in the space,newer channels like Travel XP,Insight Channel,Living Foodz are also catering to the needs of the audience. Additionally,channels like Sony BBC Earth,Living Travelz,Living Rootz and Living Homez are all waiting to launch and further expand the genre.

Discovery Networks has many firsts to its credit. Discovery has pioneered the factual entertainment genre in India since 1995 and has also introduced a refreshing new wave of programming. It also led dubbing of international content with multiple language feeds in the country.

Discovery was the first mover in bringing the best of non-fiction programming across genres like science,exploration,survival,natural history,sustainability of the environment,technology,anthropology,health and wellness,engineering,adventure,lifestyles and current events. Lately,the channel has expanded its portfolio to include reality television and pseudo-scientific entertainment.

Discovery Channel has maintained its leadership in the factual entertainment genre. The new rural rating released by BARC has reiterated viewership trends amongst urban and rural audience alike. The channel showed a viewership increase of 84 per cent from 2014.

The channel has played an important role in shaping the entire infotainment genre in India.

Discovery Networks Asia Pacific executive vice president and general manager - South Asia Rahul Johri tells Indiantelevision.com,"We have also witnessed increased demand for genres such as adventure,wildlife,survival,technology,travel,cuisine,auto and science. The channel runs with original content globally as well as in India. The channel airs shows like Man v/s Wild,HRX Heroes and How Do They Do It,etc.'

Observing that India has a significantly diverse viewer base with differentiated tastes and preferences,Johri says,"While local content finds more appeal,there is demand for a mix of international and localised content from our network. Discovery Networks offers viewers a window to the world.'

Viewers expect to see unique facets of India from the prism of such infotainment channels and hence,localisation forms the bedrock of the India growth strategy.

The channel has very well stuck to its localised content by airing a new India series every month like Tiger Sisters of Telia,Story of Yoga,India's Wandering Lions,India Emerges,1965: A Visual History,Jai Ho with A.R. Rahman and HRX Heroes with Hrithik Roshan. While Investigative Discovery saw Indian shows like Khooni Saaya with actor Rohit Roy and Shaitaan with Sharad Kelkar,the Discovery Kids channel contributed with series like Kisna and Luv Kushh amongst others.

While some channels have advanced to the 4K format,Johri is of the opinion that 4K is still in its nascent stage in India. "We continue to explore new opportunities to make a strong connect with our viewers. 4K is at its nascent stage in India and as technology evolves,we shall assess the prospects,' he says.

The channel claims to have evenly distributed the revenues across both advertising and affiliate business. Emphasising that the network values both cable as well as DTH subscriptions due to their respective advantages,Johri adds,"While cable is cheaper,it gives wider penetration to the channels. On the other hand,DTH offers more value to its consumers viz. variety,clarity,service and offers high growth in revenues for broadcasters.'

The channel claims to have nearly three billion cumulative subscribers in more than 220 countries and territories. In the Asia Pacific region,Discovery's reach is at 209 million subscribers.

"Our vision moving forward would be to bring best in class content and offer distinct value to all our stakeholders. We shall also relentlessly explore new opportunities of growth. India content has been a key focus for the network and we shall continue to produce path-breaking programs to suit Indian viewers' tastes. Our aim is to continue to innovate and deliver value to viewers,advertisers and affiliates alike,' says Johri.

While in 2015,Discovery took its focus a notch up with an intensive slate of India shows across all brands,in 2016 plans are to keep the momentum high with new formats,exclusive accesses,topical shows and refreshing hosts in a bid to satisfy the curiosity of Indian viewers.

Cable television digitisation has been a major change that the industry has witnessed,which has also helped drive up the value of differentiated and high quality content. "Backed by digitisation,we launched eight new channels including three high-definition channels,a kids channel (Discovery Kids),a regional (Discovery Tamil) and a Hindi entertainment channel (ID) in the last five years. Each of these channels has garnered tremendous response from the viewers,advertisers and affiliates alike,' says Johri.

Catering to a specific audience segment,Animal Planet has climbed up the ropes in the factual entertainment genre and is successfully surging ahead of competition. The channel offers entertainment-focused programming tapping people's primal instincts with compelling stories,engaging characters and the innate drama of the natural world.

The channel aims to bring refreshing television content for Indian audiences making for family entertainment. Beyond just animals,the channel will continue to offers different perspective to the animal kingdom. It will immerse viewers in a rich range of wildlife content - from blue chip natural history to adventure,conservation to extreme expeditions,and intimate stories of wildlife enthusiasts to bizarre creatures; catering to audience across age groups.

Animal Planet has sharpened its claws and is ready for 2016 with a new programming line-up including series and specials to strengthen its content slate. In the first quarter of the year,the channel will launch Masters of the Jungle,which will be aired every night at 9 pm. The band is one of the highly rated time bands that will bring exciting new adventures of the channel's hosts and wildlife experts. Animal Planet will also bring the fifth edition of Where Tigers Rule,an initiative to shine spotlight on the importance of tiger,which will be aired every night at 9 pm starting from March.

"We have a well-entrenched portfolio that provides high-quality and differentiated audience through the year for advertisers across categories. Our brands offer consistent and targeted viewers,which is what the advertisers look for. This is evident from the fact that our channels have a wide range of advertisers and product categories across markets,pan India,' adds Johri.

The channel will also introduce two new shows namely Rann Bhoomi,which will be aired every night at 10 pm uncovering the lives of the world's most elusive predators and Return of the Lions,which will air every Monday at 8 pm,honouring the majestic lion. The channel will also be bringing the new season of its popular series The Wildlife of Tim Faulkner,River Monsters,etc this year.

"In a cluttered television environment,the challenge remains to establish unique and differentiated proposition and we have succeeded in our mission to provide the highest quality entertainment across our 11 brands,' asserts Johri.

As per data provided by Discovery Network, the channel in AA 4+, All India market is placed at second slot.

Another channel that enjoys a strong foothold in the space is National Geographic Channel (NGC). The channel is owned by Fox Cable Networks,which had seen its inception in 1997. It airs non-fiction television programs and also features documentaries with factual content involving nature,science,culture,history,reality and pseudo-scientific entertainment programming. The channel ranks third in the genre in Week 1,2016 all India (U+R) data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India with 4090 (000Sums).

With the digitisation wave in India,the channel has witnessed a shift in the audiences' TV viewing habits. There is an increasing demand for specialised content,which in turn has created an opportunity for special interest channels. The other significant impact of digitisation has been a gradual demand for quality and localised content. "Infotainment channels like National Geographic are slowly but steadily commanding a much larger viewership pie compared to what they were commanding earlier. Competition is making sure that everyone has enough and more to keep the audience hooked on to TV,' says National Geographic and Fox International Channels India business head Swati Mohan.

"Viewers expect content to be world class,distinctive,informative and awe inspiring. Nat Geo takes pride in continuing to deliver on this promise,' adds Mohan. Even as the genre has seen an increase in the local content hours,Mohan is of the opinion that there will always be room for stories,facts,innovations from across the world that Indian viewers will continue to want to see and learn about.

Content creation for the infotainment genre is definitely not inexpensive,but at the same time the channel also believes in the unique access it provides,the conversations it creates,and the evergreen nature of the content as priceless. Maintaining a balance between what the viewers want and what will the advertisers be interested in,is NGC's core are of focus.

Travel XP,the home-grown travel channel owned by Celebrities Management Private Limited,flagged in 2011 and enjoys good viewership in India. The channel features shows like Xp Guide,Great World Hotels,Great Indian Hotels,Bada Weekend,Foodicted,Strictly Street,Xplore World,etc and is known to provide 100 per cent original content to viewers as well as license its shows to several networks outside India.

Travel XP believes in localising content for the Indian trade. "The sensibilities and requirements of the Indian consumers are different and so are the consumption patterns. Audiences have to identify with the content and we think local content is what they would relate to,' says Travel XP CEO Prashant Chothani. The channel is aggressively investing in 4K and will be soon migrating its complete production from HD to 4K.

The channel is widely available across India,Sri Lanka,Africa,Canada and the Middle East. The ad free channel effectively reaches out to viewers through DTH and cable and rakes in revenue from domestic as well as international subscription. The channel syndicates its content to over 50 networks across various geographies and licenses content to over 15 airlines for in-flight entertainment.

"There has been a lot of activity in the genre in recent times. Niche has its own distinct audience and advertisers. Original content will help the genre grow in terms of viewership but the quality cannot be compromised. Overall,I see the genre doing well,' says a media planning and buying veteran,who did not wish to be named.

One of the factual entertainment channels enjoying success in India is History TV18,which began its sprawl in 2011. The channel is jointly owned by A+E Networks and TV18 and broadcasts programmes related to historical events,infotainment and persons. It is available in eight languages across all major markets in India. The channel ranked second in Week 1,2016 all India (U+R) data from BARC India with 5143 (000Sums).

"The entire factual entertainment genre lacked some action and was operating in a niche space before the launch of History TV18,concentrating more on GEC,sports,etc. Post our channel's launch,the entire genre grew by 30 per cent,' informs A+E Networks | TV18 vice president and head marketing Sangeetha Iyer. "With more players in the fray,the entire genre expands with a larger number of audience sampling the genre,' she adds.

Even though History TV18 runs with original content,Iyer believes that there is not much local content to dramatically change the landscape of the genre yet. "Players run with only 10-15 per cent of original content and are cautious about localising it. If you don't invest in original content and not talk the language that the local market understands,the business opportunities won't grow,' voices Iyer.

The channel is strategising to invest more in storytelling,idea,innovation and uniqueness of the story by talking about things that are rooted in people's culture,lifestyle and choices.

The newest player in town is Trilogic Digital Media and iTV Network's Insight,which is a linear and non-linear channel. The channel is focussed on technology with an emphasis on showcasing talent to its viewers. It claims to change the ordinary television viewing experience and has a strategically planned line-up that will upgrade the level. "We are working towards taking the interaction and integration on TV to an entirely different podium globally. We are working on how the product is coming out and how will it work in the market," says iTV Network MD Kartikeya Sharma.

"Subscription revenue is a contending contributor and a lot depends on the implementation of Conditional Access System (CAS) for this to become a larger contributor.Currently,the subscription revenue is in the range of 20-30 per cent overall and about as high as 35 per cent for infotainment at this point. Infotainment has higher reach through cable therefore,the implementation of CAS is critical for their overall growth," informs Madison Media COO Karthik Laxminarayan.

The ad free channel,Insight,has been positively received by DTH players and expects to yield up to 30 per cent subscription revenue in year two of operations. "We are aiming for a 35 per cent hike in subscription revenue in our third year," says Trilogic Digital Media COO Shivani Jaisingh.

Insight idealises that growth depends on the content available and claims to reach out to 80 million viewers. The channel has laid down content for the entire year exclusively for a splendid 4K experience. "Talking about ad spends,the figure has been growing quite highly and is in the 15 per cent range,while the infotainment spends are growing at 10-12 per cent annually," adds Jaisingh.

The infotainment channels are expecting a drastic change with the phase III of digitisation and have rolled up their sleeves in preparations. With more channels poised to enter the market soon,the genre's growth will be interesting to watch. "The phase III of digitisation will be a milestone achievement for the country and will generate higher value for all stakeholders,especially the viewers. It will also be crucial for broadcasters and will see a substantial growth in the reach and revenue," adds a media observer.

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