By Utpal Borpujari
Discovery Travel & Living, the lifestyle channel from Discovery Networks, is changing its identity. Come September 1, it will adorn a “hipper” look and answer to the name TLC – short for Travel & Living Channel. And the fact that India is part of its initial launch – globally it will be known as TLC in about 75 countries by April-May next – shows how much importance the country has in Discovery’s scheme of things, much of that because of the growing popularity of its channels in the Indian market.
And it’s not going to be a nomenclatural makeover – the channel, which spends $800 million a year in production of fresh programmes, will come in with 15 new shows, six new hosts, 11 new seasons of existing series, and promise of much more. Among the new shows will be Everyday Exotic, Fun Asia, Sea Nation and Bob Marley – Freedom Radio. But why this change in name? Explains Rahul Johri, senior vice-president & general manager (India) of Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, “It is the culmination of the first phase of the channel’s existence, and with the new name, the channel will come in with a new dimension to lifestyle programming in innovative formats, spunkier hosts and swankier locales.” Of course, the core focus of the channel, which is lifestyle-based factual entertainment on subjects like travel, cuisine, adventure, environment, home improvement and human interest stories, will remain to be the same, he says.
In the Indian context, the channel has quite a few plans, including in local programming. “We did the groundbreaking Living With a Superstar with Shah Rukh Khan last year, which became highly popular not only in India but the top-rated show in Malaysia and large parts of South-East Asia. We plan to take such concepts forward. India is one of the priority markets for Discovery, so having local content is very, very important for us,” says Johri. Included in these plans is the idea of taking the Living With a Superstar forward, with the possibility of featuring not only movie stars but also stars from other streams of society. “Discovery Travel & Living has recorded the highest growth among all Indian channels in the last six months compared to the previous six months. Among the English channels, we are positioned only after Star Movies and HBO in terms of popularity. We now plan it to the next level,” he says. In fact, among Indian programmes, Vir Sanghvi’s Asian Diary has been quite popular in other countries too, he points out.
The channel’s new look will be complimented by quite a few scintillating shows. For example, in “Shimmy”, belly-dance instructor Kim Pechet will unravel the secrets of the exotic dance form, including how it can be converted into an energetic, low-impact aerobic choreography to burn the extra calories. In Everyday Exotic, host Roger Mooking will talk about food through an interesting mix of music and gourmet, and in Fun Asia, bubbly Janet Hsieh will take the viewer on a tour of destinations beyond the regular tourist haunts. Some other new programming line-up with interesting concepts like living on the sea (Sea Nation), taking up the most extreme culinary challenges (Glutton for Punishment), visiting the world’s biggest festivals, parties and events (World Party) and trying out outrageous tasks like holding molten lava in the hands with just a pair of gloves on or driving an undersized car in the world’s deadliest demolition derby. TLC sure believes in taking its viewer to the world lived in the fast lane, and with its new look and feel, it sure wants to make it even better.