How would you assess Discovery Networks India’s progress in 2012?
I’m pretty happy with the progress we’ve made as a group this year. Not only have we grown as a network (in terms of revenue), but we’ve also done well on viewership across our channel offerings in India. Discovery Channel continues to be a dominant player in the infotainment segment; we launched Discovery Science in Hindi, we continued to offer differentiated content on Discovery Science and Discover Turbo, and last but not the least - we launched Discovery Kids, a landmark development for us in 2012. So 2012 has been a good year for us.
Discovery Kids marks the network’s entry into the kids genre. How has the response been?
The response has been terrific so far. The idea was to fill up the gap in the kids’ space by offering entertainment through education. The scope for a channel in this space is huge because the market size in terms of number of viewers is fairly big considering that more than 30 per cent of India’s population falls under the 14 years bracket. We’re looking at aggressively tapping that market. And already, we’re present on all DTH platforms and have a pan-India presence.
But from a viewership perspective, would you view it as a niche channel?
Who says kids’ genre is a niche genre? All kids’ channels are rated very well. But what we’ve observed over the years in the genre is there isn’t much of differentiated content. You get a successful show, you tend to stick to it and suddenly that show becomes 50 to 60 per cent of your programming. Unlike those channels, Discovery Kids brings in variety with multiple shows, plus we’re a parent approved channel, so that’s one of the reasons why we’ve seen the gains as far as distribution is concerned.
How have you seen the infotainment genre evolve in the last two to three years?
If you look at Discovery Channel, the channel’s rating is as good as India’s leading Hindi news channel. So it’s (Discovery Channel) a big channel and a dominant one. I believe there is a wide requirement for variety in India. At Discovery, we’re fulfilling that need.
Also, you have to understand that India is a young country with a lot of curious people who are now increasingly watching infotainment channels.
Would you say that History TV’s entry has expanded the size of the genre in India?
We do not operate within the boundaries of a genre. As a viewer, you can switch to any channel at any given point in time. So considering that, every channel in the television landscape is our competition.
We dominate the genre (infotainment genre). And once you become a dominant player, it doesn’t matter if a particular channel has grown or contributed to the growth. We look at our performance and its impact on the overall TV industry in India. There is no fun in limiting your approach to one particular genre. By doing that, you’ll find out sooner or later that there is very little growth. So, we as a network look at the entire television landscape and we try and get our viewers’ attention across the board.
What is your take on the measurement issue for TV, particularly for channels that target a specific set of audiences?
I would say no system is 100 per cent foolproof. All the parties are working towards making the system more robust. I am a part of IBF, and the IBF is working on the BARC. So things are moving in the right direction. It’s a matter of time that we will have the system that we want.
How will digitisation improve growth prospects for the network’s offerings such as Discovery Science, Discovery Turbo etc?
Digitisation will improve growth prospects for all channels that target a specific set of audience because with analog one could carry only a certain number of channels. But, in a digital world, you can carry thousands of channels and the viewer gets a chance to decide which channel he or she would like to view or subscribe to. Your reach increases, so does your viewership. I expect all our channels to do well and better their (respective) performances once complete digitisation happens across India.
What is the target for the group at the end of financial year 2013-‘14?
We want to continue to ride on growth trajectory we’ve set ourselves on. It’s an aggressive trajectory and that’s what we’re looking to do.
Can we expect a few more channel launches next year?
I cannot comment on that right now. But, I can say that India is a priority market and the testimony to that is the fact that in the last three years or so, we’ve launched three channels and multiple languages. From here on, we will look to further expand our operations in India.