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Tuesday, Sep 24, 2002

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Discovery Channel's new programming strategy `pays off'

Nithya Subramanian
Ratna Bhushan

NEW DELHI, Sept. 23

DISCOVERY Channel's strategy of broadbasing its programming seems to have paid off.

Firstly, the gap between Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel (NGC) has widened. Secondly, new advertisers such as Toyota, Adidas, Motorola, ABN Amro, Western Union and AT&T have come on board. Even biggies such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble have started advertising after a hiatus of three years.

Speaking to Business Line, Mr Deepak Shourie, Managing Director, Discovery Communications India (DCI) said, "By broadbasing the content, we have reduced the nature and wildlife content. This has brought in many first time advertisers."

Currently there are about 209 brands advertising on the channel compared with about 186 brands on NGC. He also said that there was a 33 per cent gap between Discovery Channel and NGC.

Another initiative which the channel has recently commenced is acquiring content from India. "We have already started spreading the net and have started talks with production houses and producers. We are, however, not commissioning programmes here," he said.

The channel's two-hour Tamil feed has also generated positive response. While, there are no immediate plans of getting into other regional languages, some of the other southern languages could well be considered at a later stage.

The joint venture with Sony Entertainment Television for distribution of channels is also working. Discovery reaches out to close to 24 million households.

So, have all these initiatives helped in bringing in profits? While Mr Shourie refused to divulge details on the revenues, he said that the channel is making money. Also, the operating costs have been brought down.

Plans regarding the other green channel from the Discovery stable - Animal Planet have not been firmed up. "Once the global strategy for this channel is in place, we will be ready with our India plans," Mr Shourie said. Hence, noise level around this channel is still very low.

Also, there are no immediate plans of launching new channels such as Discovery Kids in India. "There are specialised channels and could be offered when DTH (direct to home) takes off or in a post CAS (Conditional Access System) scenario," Mr Shourie said.

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