Continuing its increased focus on India, BBC World News will launch India Direct Series in February. The series is an extension of the country directs that the channel has launched earlier, including the recent seasons that have focused on Singapore, Vietnam, Croatia, Mozambique, Canada, Georgia, Ecuador and Qatar.
With this, the news channel will include more India centric content to its portfolio, apart from a weekly show, India Business Report and Asia Business Report (a daily show that has a significant amount of India-based content). The channel has telecast a couple of India-based shows in the last 12 months. Another example of India's importance in the channel's business and popularity strategy is that two out of its 75 global bureaus are in India, while 80 out of 3000 correspondents are in India.
One of the most important trends that Jim Egan, CEO, BBC World News, pointed out is the growth in national advertising. He adds, "In most other parts of the world, we don't sell on national levels, we generally do global deals. We are seeing more national advertising in India as brands are growing, movies are coming in the market and they want to advertise to the English speaking audience. It's difficult to give a percentage growth year on year, but it's not far from being half national and half global advertising."
Although the channel does not depend much on advertising revenue, it's still one third of the total revenues of the company in India. It has a very strong digital news presence and that contributes about one third to its total revenue, while television subscription contributes the remaining one third share. The channel reached break-even point several years ago.
BBC World News expects more than four times growth in its availability in India. Egan explains, "To the extent digitisation has happened, we have been pleased with the outcome of BBC in the cities where digitisation has taken place. Our distribution and sales team is always looking for more opportunities to grow our carriage in Tier III and smaller cities. Currently, we are in 30 million households and I expect it to grow 129 as it completes next year."
The India Direct Series will be telecast across 360 million homes in 200 countries, in the channel's global schedule. BBC World News has common content for all the countries, though rescheduling is done for a few countries.
Egan explains that there is special significance in the next year for India because of the run ups to the elections. That was a reason for the choice of India for the next season of Direct Series. "India is going to be under the spotlight of the world. We are making particular investment in bringing regular client shift programmes here. The series will come here, be shot here, stream from here and we want to tell that range of stories to the world; that's one of the goals for audiences here in India," he explains.
The India Direct Series has four shows: Working Lives - Ahmedabad (which will feature Ahmedabad residents from across the economic spectrum with very different jobs and social positions, and explore what life is like at the extremes of the Indian experience); One Square Mile - Pune FC (TBC) (based on the Pune Football Club, the show will analyse the football audience and the sport's allure in a country traditionally enamoured with cricket);
Talking Movies - India Special (on the antidote to Bollywood, the new wave of Indian cinema that has an independent sensibility, as well as the renaissance in regional cinema, Bengali and Punjabi films, and the impact they're having on the industry); and 'Fast:Track', a special edition of the travel news show.
Egan expects that especially the audiences from the US (about 30 million households), Australia (for its strong links to India) and Japan will be the most interested ones for the India series.
While explaining the difference in the Indian market, he says, "It is one of the most congested markets. I don't think there is anywhere else in the world where we have as many news channels as we have in India. Obviously it has to do with the population and the many languages that the country has."
He also mentions that technology is accepted very quickly by Indians and hence mobile consumption has increased in India in the fastest manner. "It's a market which is looking outward more now. The engagement of Indian brands is not just growing in India but across the globe," he adds.
About seven news channels in India are English news channels, which have a lot of international content. Is that competition? Egan says indirectly, it is. "But we are expected to be a global channel addressing Indian market and India is one of the important markets for us. But we are not here to take on the home grown English news channels. Our editorial agenda and the content that we are offering are way different from theirs. They do cover international news and many have their own correspondents in other countries, but largely, all of them are dependent on the news wires and we are quite self reliant in that sense."