National Geographic is planning to launch its third channel in India.
Dilshad Master, senior vice-president, content and communication, National Geographic says, "I won't rule out the plans to launch another channel in India. As everything is still at a drawing board stage, I can't comment on it further but we are certainly looking at the business aspect before deciding on the genre of the channel."
National Geographic currently has two channels in India - flagship brand National Geographic channel and History channel.
"To increase the volume of localised Indian content is another top priority of the channel," Master added.
By next year, the channel plans to have at least 25-30 hours of locally produced shows on National Geographic. The channel has tied up with a host of local production houses such as UTV and Miditech.
After the success of "Leopards of Bollywood", Miditech is currently working on another show on Indian vultures.
Apart from this, EDB (Economic Development Board) Singapore and National Geographic has formed an alliance to produce 12 National Geographic films from Asia. And interestingly, the board has received almost 800-1,000 proposals from India.
UTV is producing a show called 'Stunt-men of Bollywood' for National Geographic. The show is currently under production and would be on air by January, 2005.
Zubin Gandevia, managing director, South Asia, National Geographic says, "Whenever we have some locally produced show, there is almost a jump in viewership by 40-50 per cent - carrying it forward to the subsequent weeks."
Yet, National Geographic only has a limited number of locally produced original shows. Gandevia offers an explanation. He says, "The production cost is a great factor in this case. Producing programmes for National Geographic is very costly affairs. On an average, the production cost of an episode ranges between $300,000-$400,000."
"It's not that only the localised programmes work for the channel. Some of the programmes such as 'Peoples and Places' or the wild life shows have been very popular too," he says, referring to the other popular programmes.
In fact, upcoming episodes of 'People and Places' will have a couple of India-specific shows, apart from some fresh episodes on new international destinations. Even shows such as 'Jungle' and 'Seconds from Disaster' will now have a couple of India specific episodes.
"The Indian viewers want to know what's happening all over the world, but from an Indian perspective. In other words, the presentation has to be local," Gandevia adds.
Talking about future programming initiatives, Master says, "Very soon, our channel will be an anchor-driven channel." The anchors will include both international as well as a couple of Indian faces.
As a part of the channel's Indian programming initiatives, National Geographic has announced its tie-up with IIT Delhi to launch a talent hunt for the 'Innovator of the Year' and 'Young Innovator of the Year'. The show is called Nokia Innovation and will be aired from October 3 on every Sunday at 10 pm.
The contest will be open to innovators from science and technology - divided into 11 categories such as energy management and conservation, environmental sciences, population and disease control, infrastructure and communication, software technologies, transportation, agriculture, urban living and rural infrastructure, entertainment and recreation, information technology and life sciences.
The most exciting part of the show is the prize money. While the Innovator of the Year will get Rs 10 lakh as a prize money, the Young Innovator of the Year will be awarded Rs 2 lakh, which s/he will receive only when he is 18.
Gandevia says, "This talent hunt is different as the winners will not not just walk away with the prize money, but but it will serve as an incubation fund to help the winners to start and develop their project."
"The idea is to help fund, protect and nurture innovative ideas through their developmental stage and bring them successful fruition," he added. As part of the below-the-line promotions, National Geographic is going to different schools to promote participation for this talent hunt among students.
The programme is essentially designed to improve children's viewership. Master says, "At present the kid's viewership on the National Geographic might be minimum owing to an wide variety of choices, but with a host of new shows, we hope to increase the viewership of kids." The channel has recently launched two new shows for kids such as 'Critter Cam Chronicles' and 'Be the Creature'.
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