National Geographic banks on Akshay Kumar to up viewership

By , agencyfaqs! | In
Published : April 27, 2004
A new series titled Seven Deadly Arts, anchored by movie star and martial arts aficionado Akshay Kumar, will premiere on National Geographic on May 9

At National Geographic Channel (NGC), the strategy seems clear - increase sampling and viewership of programmes, and thereby, improve the performance of the channel. NGC is currently available in 24 million C&S households in India - a jump of 6 million from December 2002 - and quite naturally, the desire is to see a further increase in penetration.

The reach of the channel, as indicated by Dilshad Master, senior vice-president and head of content and communications, NGC India, is about 26 to 28 per cent, and with major programming initiatives such as the forthcoming series titled Seven Deadly Arts with Akshay Kumar, the channel intends consolidating its viewership. "We had Egypt in September 2002, Mission Everest in March 2003, Secrets Unveiled in November 2003 and Mission Mars in January 2004," she says, delineating the channel's progression. Mission Mars - an eight-part series dealing with the historic landing of the Rover on the red planet - achieved a channel share of 1.06 per cent in the first week of telecast. "We did not simply restrict the series to the landing of the Rover on Mars, but supported it with allied space programming," adds Master.

The new series, Seven Deadly Arts with Akshay Kumar, will see the Hindi movie star and self-confessed martial arts aficionado in the role of an anchor, dwelling at length on seven martial art forms including Kung Fu, Karate, Capoeira, Aikido, Muay Thai, Taekwondo and Kalaripayattu. The show will premiere on May 9 at 8.00 pm, with five-minute capsules of the programme telecast throughout the day. Outdoor advertising and aggressive cross-channel promotions have been lined-up to build awareness for the programme, which is being sponsored by advertisers such as Samsung, Bajaj and Nokia.

Incidentally, prime time for the channel begins from 8.00 pm to 10.00 pm - a time when mass channels also get active with their mainline programmes. Which explains NGC India's need for a star anchor such as Akshay Kumar to drive viewership, considering single-TV households are the mainstay in the country, and competition for the control of the remote is common during evening prime time.

Prime time programming on the channel essentially revolves around five genres, with each day of the week reserved for a particular genre. Shows on natural history and wildlife are telecast on Mondays, world culture, people and places on Tuesdays, adventure on Wednesdays, India-specific shows on Thursdays and science and technology on Fridays. Master describes this strategy as the "stack programming strategy" as opposed to the "strip format", which mass channels subscribe to on weekdays. "You could also call it the chequer-board strategy," she says. "And to ensure sampling, we keep reminding viewers of the next programme on hand during prime time."

Apart from prime time, the channel sees spikes in viewership in the afternoon between 1.00 pm and 3.00 pm, and in the evenings at 6.00 pm. The afternoon time band, however, is slotted for prime time repeats, besides late nights between 11.00 pm to 1.00 am. The channel's big initiatives premiere at 10.00 pm on weekdays and on Sundays at 8.00 pm. Apart from attracting English-speaking viewers, NGC India has also ensured that Hindi-speaking viewers get a slice of the action with a separate, 24-hour Hindi feed which was launched in September last year. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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