New Delhi: Discovery Communications India, which operates Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and lifestyle channel Discovery Travel and Living (DT&L), is rolling out its most expensive production in the country, Living With A Superstar—Shahrukh Khan.
The 10-part series on the private life of the Bollywood movie actor, to be aired on DT&L later this month, cost the company around Rs25 crore, said an executive at Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, a division of Discovery Communications. He didn’t want to be identified.
Rahul Johri, senior vice-president and general manager (India) at Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, did not comment on the cost, but said the series reiterates the importance of the Indian market for the network.
“It is our biggest investment in a show in India and we had 12 people following Shah Rukh Khan for a year,” he said.
The cost includes Khan’s fee and the production cost paid to Red Chillies Entertainment Pvt. Ltd’s Idiot Box, the television content firm he owns, which co-produced the series with Blue Mango Films based in Delhi.
Discovery is spending an additional $1 million (Rs4.7 crore) on promoting the show.
DT&L is hoping for a good boost with the series on Khan, one of the country’s biggest stars and popular with Indians both at home and overseas. The channel has 30 million subscribers in India, but lags rival lifestyle channel NDTV Good Times in viewership share, according to TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd. The niche English information-cum-entertainment segment accounts for just under 1% of the television viewership in India, according to TAM Media.
The new thrust by DT&L on India is evident. It has moved its head of programming for the Asia-Pacific region to India and Johri promises a more local focus. “The Apac (Asia-Pacific) production base is now in Delhi instead of Singapore earlier. You will see more Indian influence in our programming,” he said.
Discovery will telecast Living With A Superstar on DT&L from 26 February, after a prelude to the series on Discovery Channel on 19 February called Revealed: Shahrukh Khan.
The 10-part series has roped in eight large advertisers, including Hyundai Motor India Ltd, Apollo Munich Health Insurance Co. Ltd and Parle Products Pvt. Ltd. “We are in talks with several others,” Johri said.
The idea for a personal life series on Khan was generated jointly by Johri, Samar Khan of Red Chillies and the Blue Mango team. Johri hopes to take the idea forward with other celebrities. “We have a template, so after Shah Rukh this format is something we will build up on,” he said.
Ruchira Raina, managing director of Dentsu Communications and Dentsu Media, said while the show may not be able to put DT&L at par with bigger general entertainment channels, it would give a spike to its viewership.
“The loyal viewers will surely lap it up and at the same time it would pull curious onlookers as well,” Raina said.
Manas Mishra, executive vice-president of Mudra Connext, said Discovery’s advertising rates for the show are not high enough to recover costs. “At Rs25,000-30,000 for 10 seconds, the DT&L show on Shah Rukh Khan cannot make enough money to pay for the nearly Rs25 crore production budget. It must have other revenue streams.”
Johri said recovering the investment would not be an issue as the channel holds the rights to the series. “It can be monetized on our other channels globally,” he said.