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BBC Worldwide and Multi Screen Media form JV to launch 'Sony BBC Earth' in India

Sony BBC Earth will be positioned as a premium factual television channel. Broadcast in HD, it will be available in Tamil, English and Hindi.

BBC Worldwide has inked a deal with Multi Screen Media (MSM) to launch Sony BBC Earth in India, positioned as a premium factual television channel. MSM will own majority stake in the venture. It will be broadcast in HD and will be available in Tamil, English and Hindi.

BBC Worldwide and Multi Screen Media form JV to launch 'Sony BBC Earth' in India
It may be recalled that BBC Worldwide had shut two of its channels in India - BBC Entertainment and Cbeebies, in November 2012, citing economic unviability due to delays in digitisation, and the need for channel operators to pay carriage fee to cable platforms. Post this, BBC World News was the only channel from the BBC Worldwide stable operating in India.

Although Cbeebies runs on ZeeQ as a block, Sony BBC Earth will be the second channel from the group.

Besides this, the network also has presence in India through its production company which produces shows such as 'Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa' (Colors), 'Kaisi Yeh Yaariyan' (MTV), 'Fanaah' (MTV), 'Har Ghar Kucch Kehta Hai' (Colors) and 'Ek Boond Ishq' (Life OK). For DD National it produces a show called 'Dil Ko... Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai'.

The company has also licensed some of its shows to Indian broadcasters. These include 'Disney Q', 'Family Mastermind' (the Indian adaptation of BBC's 'Mastermind'), 'Luther', 'Citizen Khan', 'Sherlock', 'Doctor Who' and 'The Graham Norton Show'.

Talking about why this is the right time to launch a channel in India, David Weiland, EVP, BBC Asia, says, "Digitisation isn't complete yet, but there is a more robust road map in the business. Also, this time, we are not doing it on our own, we are doing it in partnership with MSM who has the same ambition as us, and brings particular skills to the table. It's like a marriage. BBC Earth is a premium factual brand, and MSM has operating skills in this market and real equities in distribution and ad sales. It's a different strategy we are adopting compared to how it was three to four years back."

He believes that the channel resonates well with the Indian audiences, and that there is an appetite for "intelligent documentaries around history and science."

Weiland adds, "We are fairly unique with our focus on the premium quality aspect of documentaries. The strategy is that you got to have a strong brand, and I think the three letters BBC are that. Even in the markets where we haven't had an established presence, people know what BBC stands for - trustworthiness, integrity, information. BBC Earth plays on that because it is about infotainment."

BBC Worldwide and Multi Screen Media form JV to launch 'Sony BBC Earth' in India
NP Singh, chief executive officer, MSM, says, "This partnership with BBC Worldwide gives us an unparalleled edge in distributing factual programming to viewers across MSM's network in India and sharing with them some of the best television content ever."

The team says that the channel's target audience is wider than that of English entertainment channels. BBC Earth looks at adults in the 25-54 age group, appealing more to the males, as well as kids because of its educational nature.

The only limit, according to Weiland, is the number of homes that have pay TV. "You can't be truly mass here, because we play in the pay TV market. Because of our experience in India, and because it is such a unique market and the level of investment when you start are high, I think we are more interested in launching all channels in partnership," he explains.

The channel hopes to change the way people feel about the infotainment genre.

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