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Discovery to sharpen content focus this year

MUMBAI: Infotainment, lifestyle and kids broadcaster Discovery will sharpen its content focus with various initiatives this year. As part of this move, the channels across the network will look at differentiated programming, creation of effective time bands and more local content.

Rahul-Johri1“We have exciting new international programmes coming up which include two series of the globally renowned adventure-survival expert Bear Grylls, ‘The Incredible Mr Goodwin’ and new seasons of ‘Gold Rush’. From an India perspective, we will continue to offer privileged access to a wide variety of well-researched and never-seen-before programmes such as ‘Himalayan Tsunami’ and ‘National Defence Academy’,” says Discovery senior VP & GM South Asia Rahul Johri, who also doubles as head of revenue and pan-regional ad sales Southeast Asia.

Effectiveness of Time bands: For Animal Planet, the 8 pm time band was introduced to create appointment viewing for factual content. In this time zone, ‘Planet hour’ takes viewers on a breathtaking journey to the world’s most diverse landscapes.

“Ultimate Discovery at 9 pm on Discovery Channel set this time band trend in 2008. We have successfully developed this on other channels as well. ‘Planet Hour’ at 8 pm takes viewers on a breathtaking journey to the world’s most diverse landscapes. It brings an ultimate portrait of the earth’s environments, spectacular locations and how the animals have adapted to the unique habitats. The other highly watched time band on the channel is ‘Masters of the Jungle’ at 9 pm wherein we present the finest talents from across the world to showcase the spectacular and diverse animal world.”

Viewership as a result has grown. “Animal Planet ended 2013 with close to 50 per cent growth in viewership, surpassing most English movie channels and three times the leading English news channel,” added Johri.

More local content: Like its archrival National Geographic Channel, Discovery also plans more content on the local front across its channel portfolio.

“Original productions continue to be a key aspect of our growth strategy in India. We have presented fascinating new India themes, refreshing personalities and exciting formats across our channels,” Johri said, singling out the flagship Discovery which has presented stories under its programme strand called ‘Revealed’ which showcased the iconic Rashtrapati Bhavan and the National Defence Academy.

Meanwhile, on TLC lifestyle viewers have been treated to format series including ‘Trinny and Susannah’s Makeover Mission India’ and ‘Ravinder’s Kitchen’. Animal Planet will celebrate the national animal tiger with ‘Where Tigers Rule’ in March. Discovery Kids will also see a range of shows originating from India.

Growth in sub-genres: In terms of genres within infotainment and lifestyle that are gaining traction, Johri pointed to the growing demand for genres such as adventure, survival, technology, travel, cuisine, auto and science.

“India is a young country and there is immense drive among viewers for inspirational programming. Viewers want to be informed and entertained at the same time. Breaking away from the soaps and movies, the demand for non-fiction and reality content is on the rise,” he said.

Discovery Science stands out: All said, for Johri it was Discovery Science that was the star performer last year. “2013 was a great year for Discovery Science on various counts: we introduced its Hindi feed, refreshed the on-air look and logo, and enhanced its programming. Discovery Science stood out in the year by recording a stupendous 300 per cent growth in viewership.”

Boost in perception: The Discovery network consistently commissions research to gauge brand recall, reputation and viewer satisfaction. Johri also alluded to the fact that Discovery Channel and TLC were awarded India’s most trusted brands (in 2012 and 2013 respectively) and the most attractive brands in 2013 in the Factual and Lifestyle categories by the Trust Research Advisory.

“The network viewership has increased by 200 per cent over the last five years. Our global and India productions have been marked as the benchmark for quality and entertainment. Discovery triggered the growth of non-fiction content in India, and has had a dramatic and long-standing impact on the broadcast industry.”

A new digital world: Johri conceded 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 put the challenges in the shade.”

India a key market: Reiterating India’s position as a priority market, Johri said, “Discovery Communications spends over a billion dollars on content. Indian audience, similar to other markets around the world, enjoy this content through the various channels. In India, Discovery channels launch the maximum variety of programmes, which is why we are today one of the most respected and followed media companies. We have further added a layer of local content to satisfy our Indian viewers.

“We would continue to explore new growth avenues in broadcasting. The Indian television industry is undergoing a transformation. Each year brings with it unique opportunities and challenges. Discovery has been successful in navigating through the years by preparing for various scenarios and anticipating the emerging trends and regulations. Beyond television, we are launching the ‘Discovery Channel Magazine’ next month which should offer a brand new experience to our viewers and trade partners.”