28 November 2020 12:55

LEADERSHIP TALK

Pawan Soni, Vice President and Head, Content & Marketing, National Geographic India

How is National Geographic doing in the digital medium, in terms of traffic and revenue?

National Geographic has taken new strides in how we approach digital as a medium. Our brand strategy revolves around harnessing the power of National Geographic’s iconic yellow border and bring the world to our consumers by engaging with and providing audiences the content experiences they want; on the platforms they want to experience it on. Hence, we are distributing programming on digital media by creating conversations with our unparalleled global audience. And we are sharing stories that matter and resonate across all media assets, to help ignite positive global change.
Our digital community is increasing consistently. With our extensive social media outreach on Instagram, we were able to create a remarkable impact through our #ChooseThePlanet campaign, which was launched on 2nd October, 2019. It sparked an outpouring of support, elicited commitment and action from people as a result of which 25 million plastic items were pledged to be prevented from reaching the oceans. With a massive audience across our social media platforms, we will continue to build a strong social community, to further help create serious and positive impact.

What would be your key focus areas for 2020? And how are you going to get there?

Through National Geographic’s rich legacy, we have always focused on the power of immersive storytelling, science and exploration to change the world. Our focus areas will be pivoted around this basic vision.
•Our content line up for 2020 is highly focused on inspiring the younger generation through powerful stories of India’s mega icons and best rated global content on television and digital assets including Hotstar.
•We are committed to highlighting causes from around the world and have been actively raising awareness about the on-going Australian bush fires. Through our global initiative ‘Planet OR Plastic?’, we are raising awareness about the global single-use plastic crisis and encouraging people to reduce its use. We aim to drive people to take action this year. In March, we will also be highlighting stories of inspiring women from around the world through our special series ‘Women of Impact’.
•Our wildlife infotainment channel, Nat Geo Wild brings alive real-life stories of the natural world and the amazing creatures that inhabit it through world class wildlife series and specials.
•We are strongly committed to engaging with and growing our digital community. Through the year, we will engage with our loyal base through visual storytelling by our global community of explorers.
•Lastly, to drive action towards keeping the planet in balance, we will continue to delve deeper into every topic, every theme to provide knowledge, depth and perspectives unavailable anywhere else. National Geographic strives to produce content that has the power to inspire, enlighten and provoke — entertainment with purpose.

Is OTT eating in to the viewership pie of English channels?

We’re a part of an industry where change is the only constant and challenges have to be aligned to work in our favor. OTT is an emerging juggernaut in the entertainment sector which is preparing the industry to stay pertinent in the arena of technological innovation. This is a time for brands to rethink their strategy customized to linear and OTT platforms. For National Geographic, OTT has been a massive strength given that we are available on India’s largest streaming service- Hotstar.
Being available to consumers across both television and hotstar has given us incremental reach and helped us grow our viewer base.

As consumer’s preferences change, so does the role of marketing. Your thoughts on this?

Understanding the value proposition of your brand and knowing who to rope in to create meaningful conversations are of paramount importance in today’s scenario. The role of marketing is not just limited to brand outreach and amplification, but also to create perceptions and share knowledge. Given that we are living in a digital world where brands have to keep abreast of any developments in order to ride topicality, it is important for brands to remain on the ball in order for them to capitalize on important moments as well as avoid flak.
A brand must stand for a purpose and push the boundaries to remain relevant to today’s customers. We have to be responsible, authentic and hold ourselves accountable for what we communicate. Since its inception 132 years ago, National Geographic has been at the forefront of global conversations on larger topical issues that matter, and we have done so by infusing every piece of content with our mission and brand purpose.

Engagement and Content will be the key focus areas going forward. How are you redefining your content strategy?

National Geographic educates people understand the world we live in and strive to create a planet in balance. Guided by that purpose, we tell stories across all content platforms where people seek them. Engagement is a great metric, but it’s more important to us that we engage with our audiences in meaningful way. We’re embracing opportunities to increase our impact like never before, with a rich content archive containing highly acclaimed series and films, including ‘The Cave’ which just made it to the Oscars nominations this year. More recently, Leonardo Di Caprio produced the award-winning documentary, Sea of Shadows. Underlining the brand purpose of inciting people to become vigilant and inspire action, we plan to spotlight inspirational and awe-inspiring content that also celebrates compassion and empathy. Our content strategy will be to continue to display the uncharted visuals from the lesser explored regions in a captivating non-fiction entertainment format.

Do you have plans to enter into regional markets in local languages?

The Indian subcontinent for Television Broadcasters is a diverse land of opportunities due to the vast demographic and geographic characteristics. There is a massive potential in Tier II and Tier III markets, which is shaped by the proliferation of television and vernacular content. We believe languages help drive accessibility across geographies and age groups. Today, television penetration is at 66% in India and majority of content is consumed with family. To tap consumers in these markets, we have been focusing on bringing premium and relatable content to viewers in the local languages. We have recently launched Science of Stupid in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, discerning to Tamil and Telugu speaking audiences with the local celebrities like Vennela and Jagan as the hosts of the series. Additionally, we have increased our focus on regional markets while planning marketing campaigns.
As mentioned before, with our content available on Hotstar in five languages, which is the market leader in the OTT space, we are committed to provide users relatable and gaping experience. This helps us grow the content consumption amongst viewers who prefer to consume quality content on the go, as per their need.

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