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Rahul Johri

Senior VP & GM - South Asia | 21 Dec 2012

It is still early days of digitisation in the metros, let it play out and shortly we will experience the changes. Both viewers and broadcasters will get the advantage. Viewers will get to choose what they want to watch and many more channels will be placed now. The fact of the matter is content is king and now with digitisation, you will get to see more and more mature content.

Having joined Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific in 2001, Rahul Johri currently leads its South Asia operations. He is responsible for the overall growth strategy of the factual and lifestyle portfolio, including Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Science, Discovery Turbo, Discovery HD World, Discovery Tamil and Discovery Kids. He has also been the driving force behind the Networks’ localisation strategy and the launch of multiple language feeds across brands and expanding their nationwide penetration. His recent initiative, the launch of Discovery Kids channel, has received industry wide applaud.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Abid Hasan, Johri speaks about the positive effects of digitisation, Discovery Kids channel and its content, localization strategy and more...

Q. How is the lifestyle genre space shaping up in India? What are the key growth drivers?

The lifestyle genre is establishing well in the country and we have the advantage of having introduced lifestyle channels in India. It is very important that you are up to date and continue to bring refreshing new concepts to the viewers.

Q. In a previous interview you had said that “post digitisation, there will be opportunity to provide specialised content and everybody will be the gainer as revenue is concerned”. Comment.

Digitisation has happened in the country and it’s a very welcome thing. It is still early days of digitisation in the metros, let it play out and shortly we will experience the changes. Both viewers and broadcasters will get the advantage. Viewers will get to choose what they want to watch and many more channels will be placed now.

The fact of the matter is content is king and now with digitisation, you will get to see more and more mature content.

Q. How do you think the digitisation process is panning out in India? What are your expectations from the second phase, do you see any roadblocks?

Digitisation is panning out well. Phase II is really very big for us and also the industry because that is when the country will really start experiencing the change in technology. It will change the game for the industry.

I don’t think there is any roadblock; when technology arrives there is no roadblock, so once the time for technology comes, technology arrives.

Q. What is the objective behind launching ‘Mystery Hunters’? Do you think it has enough to engage today’s kids with short attention spans?

Discovery Kids is now available pan India and also on major DTH platforms. In India, there are various places and myths yet to be discovered. The series ‘Mystery Hunters’ presents interesting stories that give enthralling explanations to common myths and unexplained phenomena.

Indian kids are the same as kids in other countries and they are extremely curious about lots of things. The current landscape is dominated by one or two animated shows and there is no variety at all. Who will satisfy the curiosity of kids? The USP of Discovery Kids is that we provide them variety with knowledge.

Q. What is your promotion strategy for ‘Mystery Hunters’? What media mix are you focusing on to touch base with your primary TG - kids?

We will continue to place Discovery Kids in various platforms. We have come up with a very unique promotion strategy for ‘Mystery Hunters’ apart from our regular promotions. We are conducting programmes and targeting around 10,000 schools around the country, wherein we are going directly to the kids.

Q. Discovery had recently tied up with the movie ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ in a very innovative manner. Are there more such partnerships in the pipeline?

The innovation was very successful and it was one of its kinds, because it was intrinsic to the story and was never in the sidelines. Other options are open and we will tie up only if the right opportunity comes to our way.

Q. How important is local programming to your strategy? What India-specific shows can we expect to see in 2013?

Local programming is very important; we have been presenting several programmes throughout 2012 that have been part of our local programming. ‘Be Blunt with Adhuna Akhtar’ and ‘Oh! My Gold’ are some of our local programmes. We look forward to original shows and original ideas each time we bring new shows and surprise our viewers.

All our channels are international channels; the viewers come to see international content and not just Indian content. The entire programming mix also contains a certain amount of Indian content. As we are producing lots of programmes, the bank of Indian content will grow and you will see more and more of Indian content.

Q. Over the last few years you have launched 4-5 channels, four new language feeds across multiple brands? How do you see the year 2012, and what are the key focus areas of Discovery and Discovery Kids for 2013?

We have grown our viewership year on year. In the last four years, we have maintained the trajectory of growth. 2012 was a good year for us, as we launched many new brands and surprised with various programmes. The biggest was to launch Discovery Kids.

I can’t give you specific plans for 2013, but we are evaluating at all times. I think we have enough number of channels (eight) and we would like to establish those eight channels, but at the same time we will continue to evaluate new opportunities.

Besides ‘Mystery Hunters’ on Discovery Kids, we have other programmes such as ‘Sally Bollywood’, ‘Maya’ and ‘Howzzatt’, which are doing well. You will also see more programmes such as ‘Billu and Munna’ and ‘KIM’ in the coming year. All these programmes will offer with lots of variety and of course good quality of content.

We are also evaluating ourself in terms of regional languages; right now we are available in Tamil, Hindi, English and Bengali. Marathi language is a very big market, but we are currently covering Maharashtra through our Hindi feed. We have some metrics internally and we are evaluating that.

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