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India's Leading Source for Broadcasting & Broadband Information - CableQuest Magazine
HomeInterviewsA Leader in non- fiction genre

A Leader in non- fiction genre

Feb 10, 2016
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Rahul Johri, EVP & GM- South Asia, Discovery Networks talk to Cable Quest about Discovery's Journey over the last twenty years in India and factors that helped it remain the leader in the non- fiction genre

CQ: Discovery is synonymous with knowledge and has been entertaining audiences with gripping content, not only consumed by the youth but people of all ages and gender. How do you see the progress made by Discovery in India over the last twenty years?

Rahul Johri: Discovery pioneered the factual genre in India on 15th August 1995 and introduced a refreshing new wave of programming and completely changed the viewer expectations from television. Mirroring the growth of the Indian television industry over the last 20 years, Discovery has refreshed its content offerings at various intervals while maintaining its core brand promise. Anticipating the changing needs of the viewers, it introduced new and exciting genres over this period such as wildlife, lifestyle, science, auto, technology, forensic, survival and adventure to deepen its relationship with viewers. 

Throughout the last 20-years in India, Discovery has demonstrated its commitment to satiate the curiosity of viewers by showcasing them some of the most fascinating stories from the past, current and future; breathtaking locations across geographies, continents and universe; and astonishing and most passionate personalities from across the world. 

CQ: Knowledge based content is more like education which may become monotonous after a long viewing. How do you retain the interest of viewers who literally get addicted to your content?

Rahul Johri: The surge in Discovery’s popularity and ratings in India is also a strong indication of the changed viewer habits and preferences, the rising aspirations of a young country and an inherent demand for enriching entertainment.

Discovery has created and consolidated its leadership in the non-fiction genre by anticipating emerging trends and offering matching solutions. We have more than tripled our channel portfolio in India from 3 to 11 unique-content channels in last six years. Localisation has been one of the growth drivers for Discovery in India. 

We pioneered the factual entertainment in India and today, we have a robust 63%share of the factual genre (source: BARC, NCCS4+, 0700-2400, week 41-52, channel share).The network now operates in different genres – Factual, Kids, Investigation and Lifestyle.

After giving viewers a taste to non-fiction content with Discovery Channel in 1995, we created wildlife genre with the launch of Animal Planet in 1998. In 2004, we pioneered lifestyle entertainment with the introduction of TLC that mirrored the evolving face of urban upscale male and female audience, affiliate and advertisers. In 2010, we doubled our portfolio with three new channels each reflecting the needs and aspirations of the new India – Discovery Turbo, Discovery Science and the gold standard Discovery HD World. 

We entered the Kids genre in 2012 with the launch of Discovery Kids, offering a distinct proposition of igniting imagination of children in the country. We further strengthened our foothold in factual entertainment with Discovery Tamil, the first factual channel in Tamil language.  In 2014, we entered the Hindi entertainment genre with the launch of ID –Investigation Discovery and the same year, we enhanced our high-definition offering with the launch of two new channels – TLC HD World and AP HD World. 

CQ: How do you see an Indian viewer regarding consumption of TV content, in comparison with viewers in some other developed markets?

Rahul Johri: India is a robust market with diverse tastes and preferences across regions. This is a young country and there is immense drive among viewers for aspirational programming. Propelled by rapid globalisation and steady economic growth, the Indian viewer has become lot more globally-minded which has had a huge impact on his or her viewing habits. 

The Indian TV viewer is now spoilt for choice, with over a hundred channels and shows from a variety of genres that cater to various age groups. While the choice of channels has increased, viewers have stuck to their favourite set of 10-12 channels. The choice parameters have been very similar to what Discovery as a brand stands for – high-quality, unique and entertaining. 

CQ: How has your content evolved in the last twenty years to keep viewers glued to their television sets?

Rahul Johri: The Indian television industry has witnessed major transformation in last two decades.  From around 25 channels in 1995 to over 800 channels today, everything from the nature of programming, viewing experience and operating models, has changed. 

Indian viewers have evolved in terms of information and tastes. The country’s growing stature in the world economy has given them the confidence to pursue their interests outside of their professional lives, and even cultivate new ones. They expect their TV programmes to keep pace as well. It’s particularly been important to cater to these audiences with quality and variety. 

Since 1995, Discovery Networks has virtually come to own what can be termed the ‘factual entertainment’ genre in India, combining the best of 'information' and 'insights' in an entertaining package. With a unique portfolio comprising eleven channels—in distinct segments such as lifestyle, science, wildlife and nature, men’s interests, investigation, children and regional entertainment, we have shown that viewers have appetite for special content channels.

CQ: What innovative methods Discovery has adopted to remain on top of the genre for so many years?

Rahul Johri: India is a priority market in Discovery’s overall scheme of things. In the last few years we expanded our business on all parameters: new channels, new language feeds, path breaking India productions, availability across analogue and digital households, impetus to ad sales and high-decibel marketing. Discovery has been a pioneer in many fronts – unique content channels, differentiated and high quality content, languages and variety of genres.  

Acknowledged as a trend-setter, Discovery Networks has pioneered in bringing breakthrough programming to give viewers a real taste of the ‘real world’.  Anticipating the demand for unique content, the network launched entertainment brands such as Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC. Early spotting of emerging viewership habits and in the advent of digitisation, Discovery introduced special content channels in varied genres like Auto, Science and High Definition and most recently, Kids and Investigation.  In a cluttered television space, the network has established its distinct identity and maintains a strong brand promise of high quality and differentiated programming to its audience.

One of the high points has been the encouraging feedback from the viewers on our content. The success of our languaging strategy was immensely satisfying as it brought the viewer in every corner of the country closer to the Discovery world. We are already in five languages and continue to evaluate more.

Having unmatched access to produce shows of remarkable stature like Siachen, Mumbai Railways, Line of Control, RashtrapatiBhawan, National Defence Academy, and more and present them to Indian audience and around the world is extremely gratifying.

CQ: Do you face difficulty in reaching the viewers in tier 2 and 3 markets?

Rahul Johri: Discovery has a pan-India presence and is watched by everyone from the smallest village to the largest city. The aspirations of Indians are the same everywhere, whether in Tier I, II or III cities. In fact, we have witnessed that the youth from smaller cities is even more curious to discover and explore. A testament of this, our channels are available in 275 million cumulative households across India.

With digitization, we are entering interesting times in the life of the industry. With digital penetration, it is not about showcasing new concepts in an entertaining way to create your hold over the audience, but the relevance of the story to the viewer in his language, with his/ her people discussing things that are for him is what makes all the difference. 

CQ: What changes have come in content consumption in the digital age and how do you cope up with it?

Rahul Johri: While the consumption of content on different devices has been increasing, it cannot replace the experience of a television screen.  Television has wider reach and is most economic source of entertainment for the entire family.  With Indian viewers spread across metro, non-metros to small villages, I believe, that television will remain mainstay.

CQ: There are many innovative methods you are using these days to get on to the digital platform, like ‘Mumbai Local’, please elaborate?

Rahul Johri: We have consistently presented India themes that can travel the world and international themes relevant to India. We have surprised and delighted the viewer with some of our extraordinary shows giving them an opportunity to watch and enjoy Discovery Channel’s indigenous programmes like Spirit of India – The Festivals,Revealed: Siachen, India’s Frontier Railways and have presented unique facets of India to its viewers.  The response to such shows exemplifies the power of Discovery content and its commitment to its audience.

For Discovery Channel’s series Mumbai Railways, weleveraged the digital platform to dialogue and drive real life stories of Mumbaikars and their unmatched bond with the iconic Mumbai local.  The channel created a viral video campaign which struck an immediate chord with the audience generating a phenomenal 65,000 video views and nearly 1 million reach.

CQ: What is you experience experimenting with events like ‘Joy Express’. What purpose do they serve to a channel like Discovery.

Rahul Johri: Discovery Kids has partnered with Rapid Metro Gurgaon Limited to launch India’s first activity and experiential zone on a train – Discovery Kids Joy Express. This first-of-its-kind initiative offers exciting games, contests, activities for children and also brings kids closer to their favourite Discovery Kids superhero KISNA.  This initiative is a step towards bringing alive the Discovery Kids ‘Smart Fun’ experience on-ground for kids.  The Discovery Kids Joy Express delivers memorable ride full of fun, happiness and learning, every weekend.

CQ: Please let me know your future plans for the Indian market, when the market completely goes digital in next few years? 

Rahul Johri: In today’s tech-era, digital has become a platform to build engagement with the consumers, especially youth.  Discovery has been using multiple platforms namely social, digital and mobile to build and strengthen its engagement with its audience.  

With its unique content, news updates, and effective media strategy as the pillars of communication, Discovery is engaging with its audience to build relationships.   The network is creating dedicated audience groups to build one-on-one relationships, test programmes, gauge response, celebrate milestones, drive tune-ins and expand its fan-base.  

CQ: Your experience of Digitisation so far?

Rahul Johri: Digitisation has been by far the biggest change witnessed by the Indian television industry. We had anticipated this trend and devised a strategy to leverage this opportunity. Factual entertainment has recorded substantial gain with the on-set of digitisation. 

Digitisation has benefitted our network.  Our brands have widened their lead over competition.  Discovery Channel maintains its lead in factual entertainment with 115% higher channel share than NGC (source BARC, NCCS 4+, 0700-2400, Channel Share, week 41-52, 2015).

Animal Planet has risen ranks and stands at number 2 spot in factual entertainment genre; it is ahead of History TV18 by 78% and NGC by 12% ((source BARC, NCCS 4+, 0700-2400,  week 1-3, 2016, Average Impressions’ 000)

We are absolutely delighted that digitisation is bringing positive results for the viewer and for other stakeholders including the broadcasters.  We believe that the networks that are investing in their content and differentiating their brands will continue to reap benefits.

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