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Discovery India boss Karan Bajaj brushes aside claims of challenges in the infotainment genre

Bajaj has a lot more planned going forward for the channel

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MUMBAI: Is there a leadership scuffle going on in the overcrowded Indian infotainment genre? If you were to look at the last four weeks’ numbers as provided by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), it apparently looks like there may be the makings of one. Though it might be a minor one.

Let’s lay out the facts first: market leader Discovery enjoys a 23 per cent All India Urban (2+) market share in the infotainment genre, which is a healthy eight per cent over second placed Animal Planet, another Discovery property. Interestingly, when Discovery Tamil is factored into the numbers game, the channel's share of the pie grows by four per cent. That places the Discovery network miles ahead of anyone else with a national market share of a massive 42 per cent. 

Now on to the minor round of fisticuffs that is taking place. Yesterday, Sony BBC Earth laid out some data claiming that it had edged out Discovery. There was a caveat here: the Tushar Shah-led channel is marginally leading in only the six metros, with  5291 impressions (000s) sum as compared to Discovery with 4965impressions (000s) sum. 

One of the reasons why – industry sources point out - the Discovery India boss Karan Bajaj should not be perturbed by this is because Sony BBC Earth has acquired the market share recently by investing aggressively in distribution on different distribution platforms in the six metros, which he has refrained from doing. While aggressive distribution ploys are indeed becoming standard practice in the competitive Indian TV distribution marketplace, the marginal lead has come to Sony BBC Earth at a cost.

Hence the lanky, bespectacled young professional, who has been helming Discovery India for the past two years, is pleased with how the team is performing at the moment. 

“I just feel incredibly proud with what the organisation has achieved in these two years because our employee strength has remained the same and we launched big initiatives and have also created original content for kids,” he told Indiantelevision.com during an exclusive chat.

He proudly pointed out to the fact that in the year 2018 so far, Discovery has reached 30 million audiences per week, while Animal Planet reached 24 million. The other players: National Geographic and Sony BBC  Earth have managed a reach of 23 million and 19 million per week respectively. 

Bajaj's enthusiasm about his brand and its growth stems from the fact that the network has expanded despite making big bets and taking bold steps like launching Jeet and Veer, a digital channel over the past twelve months.

“So every level that we look at, we are very proud of the organisation that despite taking big bold leaps, the core infotainment television focus continues to be unchallenged,” he said.

Bajaj  points out that the ratings of Discovery Kids have grown by 360 per cent since the start of the year, with the channel being the home to two out of the top three Indians local IPs (Little Singham and Bandhbuk Aur Burbak).

In the lifestyle segment, TLC is ranked number one, with a 33 per cent share (2+, urban). The channel has witnessed a growth of over 10 per cent over the last year when it was placed second on the list with a 30 per cent share. With a 14 per cent upswing in impressions over the past year, eight out of the top 10 shows in the lifestyle genre are from the TLC stable, points out Bajaj.

“Overall if I look at the channel, the majority is global content and talking about the recent shows, there are very strong human interest stories which have knowledge and information that are at the heart of every one of them,” Bajaj said explaining the channel's storytelling style and narrative.

The one blip on Discovery’s progress chart has been Jeet, the bold bet Hindi fictionalized factual entertainment channel that didn't exactly pan out as planned. That should soon be forgotten because the bubbling with energy Bajaj has a lot more planned going forward for Discovery India with new shows and another digital foray on the anvil. And of course he has the full support and confidence of his Europe-based boss JB Perrette that should aide him greatly as the network goes about doing its business in the quickly evolving Indian total video (which is how JB defines the TV acronym) marketplace.

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