National Geographic on an overdrive in India

By , agencyfaqs! | In | October 25, 2000
National Geographic Channel has seen a 54 per cent jump in its subscriber base in India this year. This has helped NGC bypass the 20-million, 24-hour mark across the Asia-Pacific region

agencyfaqs! News Bureau
MUMBAI, October 25

National Geographic Channel (NGC) has had a very successful two-and-a-half year run in India. This year itself the channel has seen a 54 per cent jump in its subscriber base in the country till now. "India is the fastest growing market for the channel in Asia," NGC Asia managing director Ward Platt said in an interview to a trade journal recently.

The channel is part of the National Geographic stable, with the National Geographic magazine in publication for the last 112 years. The magazine's television operations are now 33 years old.

Indian cable television subscribers watching NGC jumped from 7.8 million in January 2000 to 12 million currently. NGC officials claim that this jump in its subscription base in India has helped NGC bypass the 20-million, 24-hour mark across the Asia-Pacific region. Now the channel plans to widen its coverage beyond wildlife.

"The channel wants to show that it is not just about wildlife programming but also has great programmes on adventure, exploration, science, travel and natural history," said an NGC executive. Platt suggested that wildlife-based programming tends to get the "best ratings" but not the "best demographics", since it tends to draw an older audience. Adventure programming attracts a younger audience - primarily males between 18 and 34 years of age.

"We are certainly not going to go away from wildlife because it is the strength of our channel. But we have tried to promote other genres of programming and they have been working quite well," Platt told newsmen in Mumbai recently.

To widen its appeal the channel has introduced voice-overs and sub-titles in local languages in several countries. This year itself Hindi and Mandarin voice-overs have been added to the channel as part of its "localisation" plans to make the impact of its shows more "international", according to NGC officials.

"We have concrete evidence to show that more people are watching our programs, and watch them longer, if we localise them. Hence we are very committed to localisation," Platt said. He said that while content would be "similar" in different countries, it would be packaged in a manner that "appeals locally".

Besides, Thai and Korean voice-overs and Taiwanese subtitles seem to be working well in the respective countries, said an NGC official. Platt said that in the first six months of this year, revenue from advertisements increased 400 per cent as against the same period in 1999. "India has been strong over the past three months and regional sales have been good for the past 10 months," he said, declining to reveal exact figures.

NGC Asia has Fox among its major shareholders. Fox, in turn, is owned by News Corp, which also owns STAR TV, and hence National Geographic "works very closely" with the latter. Using STAR TV's full digital systems, NGC has been able to introduce multiple subtitles on a single feed. "With STAR TV, we also get cross-channel promotion. In India, we have promos running on STAR Plus," Platt said. Future plans include a dedicated advertising stream for India next month.

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