The History Channel returns to Indian screens — better and bigger

Three years after its sudden withdrawal from Indian screens, the History Channel is back with a fresh take on factual television. Conflating the genres of entertainment and education, the newly-launched channel seeks to break away from older, more conventional documentary formats by offering its viewers an experience that is informative, yet fun. “When people watch our channel, they look for a never-before-seen experience as opposed to old black-and-white documentary formats, which is why we have packaged our show differently. They want to be entertained,” says Sangeetha Aiyar, general manager, Marketing, Network 18.

To kick-start this emerging genre of ‘infotainment', the channel will broadcast popular international shows such as ‘Ice Road Truckers' and ‘Culture Shock'. “‘Culture Shock' is about second or third generation Indians living abroad who are transported back to their roots, and the programme traces the effects of this collision of two differing cultures.” With programmes ranging from cinematic retellings of historic events to a show explaining the technical aspects behind cookery, the channel now caters to a broader demographic. Available across major cable networks since October 9, the new History Channel has bigger aims.

“We hope to reach over 50 million people in the first month,” says Sangeetha. “The genre itself has been inert so far, and hasn't really marketed itself here. We want to shake up things a bit and launch on a bigger scale.”

Bollywood actor Salman Khan will be their brand ambassador, an unlikely but deliberate choice, reveals Sangeetha. “We decided to break the clutter and chose Salman since it is rather unusual for a celebrity such as him to represent factual entertainment. But we're catering to a wider, regional audience, and believe this will work.”

While there will not be much local content, the channel hopes to give its viewers a range of shows in the adventure, survival, thrill and action genres. “Research proves that viewers want entertainment. Local for local doesn't work well because people don't want to see things about their own city or country. They want to go to places they've never been before. We are, however, working on some Indianised factual entertainment shows, and should be ready with it in about two or three months.”