Sony BBC Earth: Saurabh Yagnik on their unique programming
How do you hope to position Sony BBC Earth alongside channels such as of National Geographic, the Discovery network, Animal Planet and TLC? What will differentiate Sony BBC Earth from the others? What manner of exclusive content can we expect?
Sony BBC Earth is a joint venture between Sony Pictures Networks India and BBC Worldwide, which represents the key strengths of both the brands to bring mind-blowing content to the Indian viewers. With brand positioning of ‘Feel Alive’, the content on the channel aims to instill the feeling of subliminal happiness in the viewers.
A big differentiator for the channel is its programming strategy with clearly defined programing slots so people know what to expect when they come on the channel. For example, 8 pm offers fun and insightful science with the slot ‘Why, How and What on Earth’. This includes shows such as Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, Bang Goes the Theory, Secrets of Everything, among others.
The slot of 9 pm offers a new perspective on nature and wildlife with ‘Wild Wild Earth’. This will have shows like The Hunt and Deadly 60 along with the most anticipated wildlife show of the century Planet Earth II. The slot 10 pm offers adventure and human interest stories in the slot ‘Earth Explorers’. This will have shows like Where the Wild Men Are with Ben Fogle, Life Below Zero and Extreme Weather. The weekend also presents an exclusive content time band – Earth Specials that highlights mind blowing stories through visuals, facts and unseen drama. This will have special feature stories like Snow Chick, Hidden India and Secret life of Babies.
The channel will also feature legends and extraordinary storytellers such as Sir David Attenborough who is known as the ‘Godfather of Natural History’, Ben Fogle, Michael Mosley, Steve Backshall, and Gordon Buchanan - they are the biggest names in natural history and science and are known for their exemplary work.
Is there a reason behind the choice of languages - Tamil, English and Hindi - for the regional HD services of the channel? Do you intend to roll-out further language services in due course? Which regions would you be interested in next, going ahead from here?
Sony BBC Earth is available in four languages - English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Our consumer research has shown that people prefer to consume this category in their preferred language. We have started with the South market to cater to the viewer needs and will look at more language feeds in the coming time.
We're big fans of the BBC Earth films - the Planet Earth series, Life, Blue Planet, and The Amazing Natural World, in particular - apart from the many other videos on the BBC Earth YouTube channel, which we've long benchmarked for their visual and narrative quality. Could you share with us some of your plans to integrate the presence of the channel's content online, and on DVD and even Blu-ray, along with prime-time television?
As rightly mentioned, this content has a huge user base in the online space. We have seen this with the trailer of Planet Earth II which created an instant buzz in the digital world. The iguana vs snake chase has garnered about 10 million views on youtube alone. In the coming months we plan to take the content on Sony BBC Earth to SPN’s OTT platform – Sony LIV, which we believe, has great potential for this kind of content.
How much of a guiding force is a figurehead such as Sir David Attenborough, when it comes to the programming of BBC Earth shows? We're looking at that fine line that separates an abundance of pets-based, comedic gifs and memes on social networking, versus content-oriented storytelling of the manner that BBC Earth specialises in. Is there a programming benchmark that BBC Earth aspires towards?
BBC is known for their expertise in natural history. The amount of research that BBC’s Natural History Unit (NHU) conducts is almost unachievable. One episode takes years of in-depth research. At any point in time, there are 26 crews shooting on location across the world. BBC Earth are pioneers in technological breakthroughs, being the first to create live TV wildlife broadcasts, using underwater filming technology, night cameras, and many more. All this itself has made BBC Earth a strong leader in content creation, storytelling and technology.
Sony BBC Earth takes this approach of ‘storytelling with insight and positivity’ by offering new perspectives on the natural world. All hosts on the channel are legends and extraordinary storytellers in their field. The passion with which Sir David Attenborough narrates stories in his latest show Planet Earth II brings to life stories about wildlife from the perspective of the animals themselves. The way Michael Mosley experiments with his own body in the show Trust Me I’m A Doctor to answer health queries is simply phenomenal. Also the matter in which adventurer Ben Fogle stays with isolated communities away from civilisation in Where the Wild Men Are and narrates never-seen-before stories in a positive light is something to look out for. Sony BBC Earth thus celebrates the joy of natural world and fills you with life as it brings grand visual spectacle, mind-blowing content, action and drama.
Would you have any plans to explore the wildlife in India, in your programming? We're in dire need of shows on subjects from the Sundarbans to the Western Ghats, the North-East to Rajasthan, in well-constructed television shows. Does Sony BBC Earth intend to commission India-specific programming?
BBC Earth is home to many genre defining landmark series and as of now, we are accessing this content library by bringing shows that Indian viewers have never seen before. These shows are curated by BBC Earth legends who are renowned natural history presenters and whose love and passion for the natural world stands unmatched.
Outside of Sony BBC Earth, BBCW has a successful production arm in India, dating back to 2008 and working across genres. So, the likelihood of producing content in India, in the near future, is very strong.