NEW DELHI: In a country where general entertainment channels (GECs) rule the roost; Discovery Network is a blueprint of how to succeed for the numerous niche channels.
Discovery Channel, the flagship network of Discovery Communications, was launched in 1985 in United States and since then has offered viewers an engaging line-up of high-quality non-fiction entertainment from blue-chip nature, science and technology, ancient and contemporary history, adventure, cultural and topical documentaries.
Today, Discovery Channel reaches to more than 612 million subscribers in Asia Pacific.
In India, it is the biggest non-fiction network. Discovery Channel in the country is beamed in English, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Bangla as against the US, which has feeds in English and Spanish.
Discovery’s current portfolio in India includes 11 channels - Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, TLC, Discovery Kids, Discovery Science, Discovery Tamil, Discovery Turbo, Discovery HD World, TLC HD World and Animal Planet HD World - apart from a Discovery Channel Magazine.
Apart from the three High Definition channels – Discovery World, TLC World and Animal Planet World - Investigation Discovery (ID) was launched early this month and airs true stories of crime and their investigation.
Discovery executive vice president and general manager – south Asia Rahul Johri boasts that Discovery has upped its ante on its Indian channels by producing over 100 hours original content in the past two years. He highlights that Discovery has two billion subscribers worldwide through 196 networks in 45 languages, of these, India accounts for 600 million subscribers and reaches 300,000 cities and villages in the country.
However, what is worth noting is that the network isn’t breathing easy.
Three new Indian productions will soon be launched on Discovery Channel. Gujarat’s Rann will come alive in one of a kind programme Revealed: Rann Of Kutch, which will showcase the region’s geology, history, culture, people and wildlife. Apart from that, a first ever, start-to-finish account of the staggering logistical feat of putting together the world’s largest election will be presented in Revealed: World’s Biggest Election; and lesser known facets of India’s vibrant cultural practices, fascinating living traditions, unique art forms and amazing natural phenomena will be captured in India Living Traditions. The programmes being unveiled also include Medical Miracles India, which will have exclusive footage from all parts of the country.
In 2012, Discovery forayed into fiction through Discovery Kids. The channel along with leading filmmaker Ketan Mehta will see its first animation-based Indian series Kisna in October.
Johri reveals that the network is investing $1.5 billion in the original programming globally.
For dubbed content, Johri says that the network takes meticulous care as it goes through two layers of checking and re-checking before being approved. The dubbing team had around 500 professionals.
The latest entry, ID, too might see an addition of Indian content in the near future.
Johri underscores the company’s expansion drive through wide-ranging premiere content.
The network is planning to launch more than 100 high quality multi-genre series catering to the interests, passions and demands of children, youth, women, men and families. This will capture a wide-spectrum of categories ranging from adventure, survival, cuisine, travel, space, gadgets, natural history, fashion, pets, auto, engineering and reality amongst others.
Johri claims that the channel has the highest number of programming per day with 12 to 15 shows per day. He adds that shows like Rashtrapati Bhavan saw the highest channel share, while the programme on the Uttarakhand floods – Himalayan Tsunami – was the highest rated in 20 years, and the programme on National Defence Academy had a viewership that was 325 per cent more than Rahul Gandhi’s interview on Times Now.
Johri says, “We have tripled our networks in India in the last five years. Today, we operate in six unique genres through our robust portfolio of 11 networks reaching a cumulative 240 million homes in five languages. We will continue to strengthen our leadership and make investments in content, communication and availability across all our networks and deliver an unmatched experience to millions of viewers across urban and rural India.”
The channel survives as a pay channel and on advertisements and has never crossed the limit of 12 minutes of advertising and two minutes of promotions in an hour. “We have more than 200 local and national advertisers for the Tamil channel,” he claims.
India today has 1.5 million HD sets, and continues to increase. Johri believes that the addition of the HD channel will help Discovery to dominate the market since the future is in HD. All the programmes were being shot in HD much before the launch of the channels in India.
Johri adds that though it is the only channel to has a licence for 3-D television, it has not launched any channel, so far, as a very few people have 3-D television receiving sets.
The network has seen tremendous growth from the time he joined it, 13 years ago. Johri feels that he is fortunate enough to contribute to this growth and bringing the channel to the third position. He recalls that 2010 was the turning point for the channel as it saw the launch of Turbo, Science and the first HD channel apart from the Tamil and Telugu feeds.
He is optimistic about the future of the niche channels and content generated for it. He says, “People want specialised content and so every channel is trying to go niche in its own way. India is the fast growing market in terms of television in the world.”
When asked if there were any plans for a sports channel since Discovery had acquired Eurosport International, without revealing much Johri says that it is too early to predict anything and any action in this will be taken after thorough study.