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NatGeo hails Disney JV, to work with Hotstar (IANS Interview)


IANS New Delhi
National Geographic is "thrilled" at its joint venture with Disney and the opportunity it presents to grow on a global scale. It will also closely work with Hotstar in India, according to a top company honcho.
"We are thrilled about the opportunity that the JV will present for National Geographic to grow on a global scale. The launch of direct-to-consumer platform, Disney+, will be a major moment in the industry and it's exciting that National Geographic will be part of it. We will also work closely with Hotstar in India," Gary E. Knell, chairperson of National Geographic Partners, told IANS in an e-mail interview.
Market research firm Counterpoint Research says Hotstar, now a part of Disney with its parent Star India, is India's largest video streaming service with around 75 million subscribers. Netflix is in fifth with a monthly active userbase of 5 million.
National Geographic Partners, a 73:27 JV between The Walt Disney Company and the National Geographic Society announced last month, will oversee commercial activities related to the Society, including magazine publications and television channels.
"The partnership will benefit the National Geographic Society to become an stronger media organisation amplifying their efforts and shining a light on the important work they are doing towards achieving a planet in balance. The possibilities are endless and I look forward to this chapter," Knell said of the JV that came about with Disney acquiring 21st Century Fox.
"This is an extraordinary and historic moment for us -- one that will create significant long-term value for our company and our shareholders. Combining Disney's and 21st Century Fox's wealth of creative content and proven talent creates the pre-eminent global entertainment company, well positioned to lead in an incredibly dynamic and transformative era," Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger had told IANS in a statement.
Speaking of the future, Knell said that "in a rapidly digitising world, National Geographic is employing a 360 degree approach to tell stories across all its media platforms and is constantly embracing new technologies and platforms to maintain relevance and stay connected with its audiences." Knell previously served as President and CEO of the National Geographic Society from 2014 to February 2018 and oversaw the Society's vast no-profit activities in science, exploration, education and media innovation.
Knell, whose media career spans over three decades, said the company has been adopting and adapting to new technologies, platforms and devices like virtual reality, Instagram, Snapchat and apps to its storytelling toolkit. He cited the example of "The Story of a Face", a National Geographic magazine cover story about the youngest face transplant recipient in the U.S.
"Her inspiring story was told far beyond the pages of the magazine. Social content related to the article included, the longest-ever Instagram story (25 chapters) that became the most successful @NatGeo Instagram story in our history. We also produced a Snapchat story focused on teen suicide prevention, short- and long-form video content, and a special that aired on National Geographic," he said.
Knell, a member of boards of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Economic Club of Washington and the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, said the media world was seeing a dramatic shift from a pre-fixed to an a-la-carte world.
"We need to be able to reach people wherever they are, and stay competitive in a world where they have more choices. We are conscious that consumers reach our brand through different avenues -- whether it's streaming one of our shows, reading one of our books, subscribing to one of our magazines, or even just following us on Instagram. All these touch-points are driven by the consumer and their level of engagement with our brand," Knell said.
Noting that National Geographic Partners extends "major support" to the Society's work in the areas of education, conservation, exploration and science, he said: "In a time when consumers are seeking brands that make a positive social impact, being a purpose-led media organisation sets us apart and contributes to our global reach."
"We are seeing more brands moving to embrace social responsibility. I think the trend will continue to gather momentum," Knell remarked.
He said launch of National Geographic Expedition in India was "a major push for the curious Indian traveller. It offers our unique travel experiences and expeditions to the India market in the local currency".
National Geographic Expedition covers all the seven continents and is designed to reflect the broad spectrum of travellers' interests. On offer are trips on land, aboard small ships, along classic train routes and in the comfort of a private jet.
"What sets our trips apart is that they are led by National Geographic experts -- scientists, photographers and explorers -- people who are steeped in knowledge and insights about the places we visit. We are excited to introduce these incredible experiences to Indian travellers," Knell said.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at

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First Published: Apr 28 2019 | 11:04 AM IST

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