Creating balance is important: Rahul Johri

29 Nov,2012


By Ananya Saha


Rahul Johri, Senior Vice President and General Manager,South Asia at Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific was recently named ‘Media Professional of the Year’ award at the Global Awards for Brand Excellence 2012. He has been associated with the Discovery network since 2001. Over the years, the Indian broadcast industry has seen lots of changes: from a two-channel to too many channels on the airwaves. “Hopefully, digitization will sort this. Well, at the same time, because the viewers are far more exposed, it is an opportunity to bring in a lot more channels, specialised channels and content,” articulates Mr Johri.


He insists that robust distribution becomes the key in Indian broadcast space, adding: “A lot of channels understand the importance of affiliate revenue, which drives more mature content. If you look at our television landscape, we have channels that are very sensational in nature. Even if not many channels, a good number of channels are. The number of sensational channel exceeds the number of non-sensational ones. That is because if you are free-to-air channel, you are chasing only eyeballs and then you are bound to be sensational. If you are a pay channel, you expect viewer to actually pay for the content, more so in a digital environment where you will pay for what you wish to watch.” He is also hopeful that digitization will see a balance being achieved between the sensational and non-sensational channels, even though the later will not stop beaming completely.


Mantra for success: Stay Contemporary

Mr Johri says that staying contemporary and relevant to younger audience has helped channels like his to grow steadily. “Our viewership numbers have grown steadily over the years and it is clear testimony to the fact that this is a young country and 65% of audience is under 30 years of age who are interested in mature content. If you continue to give same fare to three generations, someone will walk out of the room,” he said.


And contemporary is definitely the buzzword with the channel itself. The branding of Discovery was recently seen in the Yash Raj Film – Jab Tak Hai Jaan where the female lead Akira plays a documentary-maker from the channel. “The way I look it, it is the first from any broadcaster or any marketer that it is a perfect interplay between fact and fiction where Discovery Channel is fact and the movie is fictional. Discovery is seamlessly a part of the script. It is much more than a plain branding. The branding opportunities like this does not present itself everyday – it is like the perfect storm where everything comes together,” observed Mr Johri.


The fact that in 2001, Discovery was seen mainly as educational channel pushed the broadcaster towards a lot of marketing and promotional activities. “Today, we are not a one-channel service, and hence, our job is more complex. For instance, we have programming from 10 channels in theUS, international channels, we have programming that we are producing. So all that progamming is being sorted here and then sent to various channels that we have here. There was a time when same streams were there but you had to put it only on one. So you choose whatever you thought was right. Today, the job is more complex to identify what goes in TLC or there is a gap here, or it needs to be edited. No doubt that the number of variables has increased manifolds,” says Mr Johri.


The way forward

Mr Johri is optimistic of the growth of the Indian media industry even though he thinks that we have a long way to go. He said, “Industry will continue to grow. We have a long way to go. Even though we might think we are a big industry, by global standards, we are not one of the biggest industry or market. There is tremendous opportunity in Indian marketplace. Broadcast companies need to grow over next few years.”


He also believes that there is no reason that advertising revenues and subscription revenues for a broadcaster will not equal themselves in the time to come. “All over the world, subscription revenues are higher than advertising and I foresee the same trend here,” Mr Johri says


He, however cautions, “Digitization playing out all over the country is going to be huge task. Once Digitization is completed, then the need for quality and diverse entertainment will grow. Five years from now, if you are in the perfect digital world with 1000 channels, these channels are going to be content guzzlers. While on one side, it will spell tremendous amount of opportunity to content creators and production houses etc, but at the same time how much quality will one be able to maintain? The critical balance between quality and quantity will be a challenge.” He thinks, however, industry bodies such as IBF will help channel the industry growth.


For the record, Mr Johri is also a Board Member and Treasurer of Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF). He is also a member of the media and entertainment committee of Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and member of the Media & Entertainment Division of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).


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