In the last two decades, the Indian television industry has witnessed significant developments through new channel launches, new programming genres, increase in digital and DTH homes, development in the regional market, rapid deployment of HD and digitisation of cable networks. The seven magic moments that generate global interest in the Indian television industry are:
Non-fiction - Creation of a new television genre: The medium came of age in the 1990s, with the arrival of private channels. Propelled by rapid globalisation and changing societal attitudes, India’s television audience was on the path of a dramatic transformation. Their viewing needs and habits were fast-changing.
With content at the core of its strategy, Discovery Communications launched Discovery Channel in India in 1995. By popularising non-fiction content, Discovery changed the Indian television landscape and introduced viewers to the refreshing genre of factual entertainment. From its vast library of high-quality programming, the channel exposed viewers to a variety of genres, including forensics, history, wildlife, space, astronomy and technology. Who would have believed 15 years ago that a non-fiction channel like Discovery would become mainstream, maintain its core brand proposition and rank as India’s 9th largest channel in cumulative reach amongst all channels in the country? Currently available in 60 million homes, the channel has gained a strong foothold in metros, non-metros and over 200 villages across the country. Discovery paved the way for specialised content channels like science, auto, food, history, wildlife and makeover, providing Indian audiences myriad media choices.
We speak your language - Reaching beyond metros: Aiming to attract viewers across the country, Discovery Channel pioneered dubbing of international content in India, when it launched the Hindi feed in 1998. Discovery also launched its first 24-hour regional channel – Discovery Channel Tamil – dedicated to Tamil audiences. These initiatives are aimed at enhancing understanding of the programmes through easier comprehension and greater connectivity. The strategy was an instant success and resulted in a huge surge in the channel’s viewership. Content in local languages remains a favourite amongst regional viewers and show higher time spent, which offers advertisers a lucrative proposition to reach target audiences.
More dubbing artists and young talents aspire to be a part of this industry.
Digitisation: India represents one of the largest markets for television in the world. While cable and satellite TV homes form the majority of the market, it is readily adapting to DTH. Many broadcasters, private operators and government bodies are pushing for digitisation. Because of better quality in digital, viewers are spending more time on TV and on preferred content. As newer modes of delivery – DTH, IPTV, HDTV – become more acceptable to the public, the scope of television production and the quality of transmission are bound to improve. Discovery had been preparing for digitisation years in advance. When we launched TLC in 2004, we believed DTH would empower viewers to demand content of their choice. 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.
High definition - A new era: High-definition TV is the future of television, offering sharper picture quality in movie-like rectangular screens and providing an unmatched viewing experience. A pioneer in HD programming around the world, Discovery launched India’s first true 24-hour high-definition channel Discovery HD World in 2010, which offers programming in 1080i and 5.1 surround sound, which is a gold standard in television. All leading DTH service providers are offering HD services. As consumer awareness and aspirations grow, demand for HD will grow. Price cuts will also encourage viewers to go for HDTV sets. The emergence and growth of high-definition in India will be critically dependent on broadcasters’ competence to offer differentiated, credible and entertaining content.
Lifestyle viewing - A new trend: When we launched India’s first lifestyle channel TLC in 2004, viewers announced their liking for it almost overnight. Lifestyle, which was once synonymous with fashion, got a new definition to include food, travel and music. TLC’s engaging hosts like Anthony Bourdain, Samantha Brown, Kylie Kwong and unique programming formats like ‘1,000 Places to See Before You Die’, ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, ‘Wife Swap’, ‘Project Runway’ and ‘Thirsty Traveller’ connected with viewers like never before. The entire industry, including advertisers and affiliates, took note of the refreshing content and what it meant to viewers. This has not only encouraged many companies to foray into this segment, but has also led to the creation of a new genre in Indian television – lifestyle.
Different strokes for different folks: In the last decade, viewers have seen a surge in specialised genre channels like Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Science and Discovery Turbo. The continuing success of Discovery Networks’ real-life programmes has been instrumental in triggering a paradigm shift in television watching habits in India. India’s big story in the near future is multiple choice of channels, which has reinforced strong competition amongst broadcasters to offer best content to its viewers. Availability of dedicated channels on various genres like science, automobiles, wildlife, food, music, lifestyle has, in fact, altered the very way television is perceived in India and that has, in the process, delivered a completely new breed of viewers for media planners to take into account.
Dynamism: Technology will be a catalyst to the growth of broadcasting industry as it takes the next big leap. With accelerated digitisation – DTH and IPTV and product offerings like content on demand on mobile TV – broadcasters are adapting to changing consumer preferences and delivering more interactive and customised services. It’s all about innovative business models for broadcasters and more choices for consumers – making it a win-win situation for both. In the years to come, TV penetration is expected to increase even further due to rapid economic growth and a burgeoning entertainment-hungry population. There is reason to believe that this is only the beginning.
(Rahul Johri is Senior VP and GM (South Asia), Discovery Networks Asia Pacific.)