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National Geographic Channel has a new mission

By , agencyfaqs! | In | July 18, 2002
National Geographic Channel is targeting the prime-time band of 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm to provide 'meaningful entertainment'


National Geographic Channel (NGC) hopes to modify the viewership preferences of Indian television audiences. And it is targeting the prime-time band of 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm to provide 'meaningful entertainment'.

Why the 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm band? "Because that's the time band when families across states, castes and creed are hooked on to the soap operas on STAR and Sony that have become the heartbeat of the nation. And kids spout the names of the characters on these soaps faster than names of the Indian freedom fighters," says a senior official associated with the new programming initiative.

To begin with, Nat Geo Max time band (9.00 pm -10 pm) will be strengthened with a slew of new programmes. Among these are Air Force One, $100 Taxi Ride, Chasing Time and Earth Pulse. "Earth Pulse, hosted by Kamal Sidhu (earlier VJ on CHannel [V]) is a programme on environmental issues. Air Force One is an airliner that shuttles the US President across the world; however, few have seen it from the inside. In the programme Air Force One, NGC takes the viewers onboard Air Force One," says Dilshad Master, vice-president, content & communications, NGC.

The other two programmes Chasing Time and $100 Taxi Ride are a mix of fun and adventure. While $100 Taxi Ride is an interesting way of seeing the world, Chasing Time is about people who are in a completely unfamiliar territory, and have to find out places with the help of clues given to them.

Competing with the 'K' family of dramas in the same time slot is a tough call, but NGC is ready for the slog. "You will be surprised to know that it is the 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm slot that gets the maximum viewers compared to other programmes on NGC through the day," clarifies Master.

To tap more viewers and reinforce its commitment to the existing NGC viewers, NGC has launched a multimedia campaign, conceived by SSC&B. "We have taken on the image of being brand leaders in television exploration and adventure," announces Master.

This how NGC introduces itself now - 'Before we make programmes, we make History'. The campaign is a series of ads that one would see on print, TV and hoardings. The first ad revolves around the Titanic. The script reads, "When NGC first saw the Titanic resting on the sea bed, one could imagine people still standing on its deck in hope." A follow up ad is focused on an avalanche. "When an avalanche is threatening to bury a town there is no time for our cameraman to change his film or his mind." More such ads will follow.

Elaborating on the premise of the communication, Ajay Chandwani, president, SSC&B, says, "In India, people perceive NGC to be a wildlife channel. But it is more than that. The task is to change that perception. Let me put it this way, for every great phenomenon concerning the Earth, National Geographic is always there. The excitement around the event is what we put together for our viewers."

To cite one example of NGC's commitment, Chandwani traces the manner in which the NGC crew tracked down Sharbat Gula 17 years after the mysterious Afghan girl donned the cover of NGC magazine in 1985. "We do not acquire programmes. We make our own. When any project is taken up it is not just seen as a viable commercial opportunity. That criterion is immaterial. However, during the course of an expedition if the National Geographic Society feels that it can be shown on TV, only then it does," explains Master.

Thus, NGC's involvement is just not restricted to capturing an event on camera, but right from the research stage of a project. The National Geographic Society, which is 114 years old, has been historically commissioning researches. So far it has funded 7,000 expeditions all over the world. One such example is SuperCroc. Four years of research went into the expedition that led to the discovery of a prehistoric mammoth Sarcosuchus imperator (one of the largest crocodilians to ever walk the Earth) by Paul Sereno, in the parched sands of the Sahara. And decision to show it on TV came much later.

NGC executives claim scoring TVR points is not an end in itself. As Master puts it, "We have existed in this space for more than 100 years. But yes, if there is someone who wants to extend this genre we would be more than happy." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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