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Interview: Keertan Adyanthaya, MD, NGC & Fox International Channels

‘Everybody wants to know a little more about the sky above, about the animals around us, and how deep the oceans are. There is so much to be discovered yet’

Neha Saraiya | Delhi | October 10, 2011

Keertan Adyanthaya, Managing Director, National Geographic Network and Fox International Channels,   has a deep love and understanding of the television industry. With a career spanning more than 15 years with stops at various places such as Channel V, Star News, VH1 and Star Plus, Adyanthaya came on board Fox channels in India in 2010.

Since then, his acumen in television has pushed the towards a larger audience base. Last year National Geographic fetched an average of 54 million viewers a month and was distributed to over 45 million homes.

Neha Saraiya of caught up with Adyanthaya for a quick interview during the launch event of a new show, ‘NatGeo Super Cars’, featuring Bollywood actor Rajeev Khandelwal. The show is about the most coveted cars in the world. Excerpts:

In the factual entertainment segment, NatGeo has mainly two competitors -- Discovery and the soon to be launched History channel.  How do you plan to deal with the competition?

We have our own content strategy, and we believe in focusing on that. If you look at it, NatGeo is a 120-year-old brand, and for us the focus has always been about exploring the world, making people know more about their world, satisfying their hunger to know more. For a long time, ‘Live curious’ was the brand plank that we were identified with. That’s the brand strategy that we really have and we continue to live that. Competitors will come and go, and they have their own strategy, and I am sure they live with it. Our own brand strategy banks on the idea that people will always be curious, no matter what. Everybody wants to know a little more about the sky above, about the animals around us, and how deep the oceans are. There is so much to be discovered yet.

How do you source your programmes?

We have a commissioning setup in Washington DC and they commission shows from all around the world worth about 400-500 hours every year.  We use that as a library and pick up shows from there for airing in India.

What is the ratio of India-based shows in your content mix?

We have one big property which is called our ‘mission property’. We have done Mission Air Force, called ‘Udaan’. We have done Mission Navy also and recently we did Mission Army called ‘Desh ke Rakshak’. These kinds of shows generate 15-20 hours of programming. In addition, we recently did ‘Inside Kingdom of Dreams’ where we showed how KOD is put up.

So how does it affect your content strategy?

The content strategy is really interesting, its technical, its scientific and that is what the channel is all about. Earlier, we were known for going into nature and wildlife. But essentially, if you look at the plank that we are on, it’s all about letting people discover more about the world they live in.

What is the kind of GRP that the channel is experiencing these days?

We don’t follow GRPs per se; we look at the number of millions of viewers who watch our channel which is in tens of millions.

Of late, media planners are becoming quite choosey when it comes to selecting a particular medium for a brand? What kind of specification do they seek from NatGeo?

What people look for from our kind of channel is not numbers but the content affinity of viewers. There are a lot of viewers that watch our channel and they believe in what the channel message is. They believe in living curiously and knowing more about the world. And many people want to buy that kind of audience. There are many avenues to get a particular kind of audience. You can buy a GEC, news channel or factual channel like ours, but many times you need to be present across various media to drum the message and that’s how the media plans are bought.

Any plans to revise the rate card?

I think the rate card got revised two-three months back, so there are no plans for a revision in the immediate future. However, we normally do it on a yearly basis.

Are there any new brand associations that the channel has done recently?

Yes, quite a bunch of them. We are doing a show with a big automotive manufacturer wherein we are creating a show for them. Besides, there are lots of advertising partnerships with us.

The factual channel segment is experiencing a growth of 20-35 per cent y-o-y. What is the growth rate that you are experiencing?

In terms of advertising this year we should be growing at between 25-30 per cent, while last year it was also 20-25 per cent.

In terms of advertising, NatGeo has been very active on the digital front. Why?

We have been looking at using digital in a very big way. We are very active on social networking forums like Facebook and it has paid for us. Today we have 125,000 fans on Facebook who interact with us constantly. Every post we put up, there are 200 people ‘liking’ it. It’s like an everyday exchange of ideas wherein people constantly look forward to what’s happening at our channel. It’s a good way to communicate with young audiences.

So how much do you allocate to advertising on yearly basis?

We allocate about 10 per cent of our revenues for marketing activities.

Has the new show ’NatGeo Super Cars’ been launched to cash in on the F1 frenzy among audiences?

We had planned the show right at the beginning of the year, but it just ended being timely. This show shows how these cars are made, the kind of technology, science that go behind making these cars, the kind of passion and dedication the people who make these cars bring to it, and how the companies test a car before bringing to the world.

What kind of research generally goes into new programme at NatGeo?

All our shows are backed by serious research. For any show we do, there is a lot of research. Like, for this supercars show, there has been a lot of research into how certain technologies are adapted before being put into the cars, as different cars have different technologies spanning across different shapes and sizes. We explore the technology and show it to people.

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