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Discovery launches India's first high definition channel

Discovery Networks, which recently introduced two new channels, unveils Discovery HD

Discovery Communications has unveiled India's first high definition channel, Discovery HD. The channel is available on Sun Direct as a 24 hour, ad free service with about 85 per cent of the content premium to the channel. All the programmes on the show will be produced in HD to give unique experience to the viewers.

Discovery launches India's first high definition channel
"The emergence and growth of digitisation in India is critically dependent on the broadcasters' competence to offer differentiated, credible and entertaining content. Discovery HD brings the network's thrilling factual content to life - sound effects are more realistic, images larger than life and situations more gripping than ever before," says Rahul Johri, senior vice-president and general manager, India, Discovery Networks Asia Pacific, in a public statement.

Discovery HD will feature programming on the wonders of the world ranging from culture, science and natural history to travel and lifestyle themes. The high definition programming will be offered in 1080i, along with 5.1 surround sound.

"We believe HD is the future of TV and the change is as big as the shift from black and white television sets to coloured television sets," says Johri.

The channel will have programmes such as Green Paradise, Postcards Australia and Nature's Keepers, that will engage viewers in natural treasures and their protection. Our Plant is a show that will tell the story of wildlife events. Also, there will be unique shows such as Space Station, Sunrise Earth, Moments in Time, Monumental Vision and Destination Wilderness. It will also have India specific content.

The channel is currently ad-free and on a revenue-sharing model with the DTH service provider.

To truly experience the superior quality of HD, consumers will not only need HD television sets but also HD set-top boxes and programmes made in HD.

However, a high definition channel consumes bandwidth that is equivalent to the bandwidth of four standard definition (SD) channels and involves about three-four times more cost than a SD channel.

While Sun Direct's set top box will cost only Rs 999, with the starting price range of about Rs 46,000 for a LCD screen HDTV, consumers may have to shell out a lot more to get the complete experience.

The channel is currently available only on Sun Direct, which is the sole provider of high definition set top boxes in the country. At Rs 25 per month, the channel is the most expensive offering on any DTH platform.

As per its website, Sun Direct reaches approximately 5.3 million homes, whereas Tata Sky has a subscriber base of more than 4.5 million and Dish TV has about 6.5 million subscribers.

Discovery HD was launched in 2002 in the United States and is currently available in 60 countries across the globe and 16 countries in Asia.

The company has been on a roll since the beginning of the year. To further strengthen its presence in India, it launched two channels - Discovery Science and Turbo in January. It also introduced a series on superstar Shahrukh Khan, called Living with a Superstar, which went on air on February 26.

Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Travel & Living, Discovery Turbo and Discovery Science reach about 118 million subscribers in India cumulatively. Discovery Channel is currently aired in three languages (English, Hindi and Tamil); Animal Planet is aired in two languages (English and Hindi); while Travel & Living, Discovery Turbo and Discovery Science are telecast only in English.

As per the TAM Media Research, Discovery Channel leads the pack with about 56 per cent market share, followed by National Geographic at 23 per cent, Animal Planet at 17 per cent and Fox History & Entertainment at 4 per cent in the infotainment genre.

Other DTH providers such as Dish TV, Reliance Big TV and Tata Sky also plan to start offering HD set top boxes and Discovery is also in talks with them to make available the new channel. Discovery, along with Sony and IMAX, also plans to introduce the 3D channel by next year.