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Can't get all your entertainment on a single channel: Rahul Johri

Q&A with Senior Vice President & General Manager-South Asia, Discovery Networks Asia Pacific

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The infotainment genre leader, Discovery Networks, got the early-mover advantage after launching way back in 1995 in India. From a single channel then, the company today operates eight channels with multiple language feeds. In an interaction with Gaurav Laghate, Rahul Johri spoke about the future plans. Edited excerpts:

What kind of opportunities does digitisation throws for in India?
First catalysed the transformation of television’s quality and utility and now digital cable is amplifying this change across the country. Digitisation will lead to better realisation of content. It would encourage new and differentiated channels with wider range of channel offerings and innovative packaging.

We anticipated this a few years ago and had been preparing for this new environment. In the last few years, Discovery has increased its channel portfolio in India from three to eight networks and from two to five languages, triggering a new and robust category in the industry of unique content channels. We pioneered new genres with the launch of Discovery Science, Discovery Turbo, Discovery HD World, Discovery Tamil, and most recently Discovery Kids.

We proved that the viewers, when offered choice, will prefer well-defined and high-quality content. The rest of the industry has also responded to this consumer trend by launching various multiple channels across categories.

How do you see the prospects ahead for Discovery Network in India?
We have a dynamic portfolio of channels in varied genres, including (wildlife channel), TLC (lifestyle), Discovery Science (Science), Discovery Turbo (youth featuring programmes on everything motored), Discovery HD World (high definition channel), Discovery Channel Tamil (separate feed) and recently Discovery Kids.

We believe this is the best time to be in India and Discovery is ideally poised for this new environment.

How is the response for recently launched Discovery Kids?
has garnered tremendous response from viewers, advertisers and affiliates. It has been widely appreciated for its content and differentiated offering. Discovery Kids has gained availability across India on both analogue and DTH platforms including Dish TV, Videocon D2H, Tata Sky, and Reliance Digital TV. We have planned a number of India themed shows including our first India production Mystery Hunters. Even global franchises like Tintin and Pacman will appear on the channel from the first quarter 2013.

Can you give more details on the localisation strategy?
Localisation continues to be cornerstone of our programming strategy. TLC has emerged as India’s favourite lifestyle channel. Its India productions in 2012 - What Not Wear India, OMG 2 and Be Blunt With Adhuna Akhtar along with its global programming like No Reservations, Man vs Food, Invite Mr. Wright, Hell’s Kitchen, Ink series and Project Runway made up for a delightful viewing.

Discovery Kids has embarked on its localisation strategy with its first India production – Mystery Hunters India. We are currently airing some India themed titles such as Sally Bollywood and Howzzzat. 2013 will only see an upsurge in original content.

The other key aspect of localisation is programming as per Indian needs. All shows are aired and scheduled as per the preferences of the Indian viewer. Offering content in multiple languages is another strategic aspect of our vision for India.

What do you see the future on infotainment genre in India? And will digitisation help in growing niche and infotainment genre?
The future of lies in well-defined and specialised content. Not one channel can be a one-stop shop for all kind of entertainment. With digitisation, we are getting into a totally pay-TV scenario where there will be multiple choices for specialised content according to the viewers need.

Our belief is that the pay-TV model will be strong for years to come and that digital media provides a differentiated opportunity for unique content channels.

In terms of revenue where does India stack up vis-a-vis other Asian markets like Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea?
India is a priority market in company’s overall scheme of things. In the last few years we expanded our business on all parameters: new channels, new language feeds, path breaking India productions, availability across analogue and digital households, impetus to ad sales and high-decibel marketing. Each of the channels has received encouraging response from viewers, advertisers and affiliates alike and the brands are self-sustained.

Any common pattern you see in viewership across global markets?
We have experienced that technology is a catalyst to the growth of broadcasting industry. In India, with new advancements especially in digitisation, DTH, IPTV and product offerings like content on demand on mobile TV, the broadcasters are adapting to changing consumer preferences and are delivering more interactive and customised service.

Going ahead, what will be your content strategy for the next year?
Our expertise is to offer highest quality, researched and entertaining content from across the world, including India. We will launch more than 1000 hours of original content across our channels. It will be the biggest offering of non-fiction content in India. We have planned multiple India productions. With digitisation allowing a more measured reach and value, we are all set to entertain millions of viewers in India.

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