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Exclusive: biggest ever History launch as A+E cuts India deal

History channel will roll out in India on October 9, reaching 40 million homes at launch, TBIvision can reveal. A+E Networks has cut a deal with several platform operators and Sean Cohan, senior VP, international, says that the channel can, ultimately, be bigger than Discovery in the country.

A+E inked a joint venture with TV18 last year with a view to getting into the fast-growing Indian market. It has now inked carriage deals with cable and DTH operators including DEN, Hathaway, Tata Sky and Airtel. It will launch in HD, in six languages: English; Bengali, Marathi, Hindi, Tamil and Telegu.

A+E has also recruited Bollywood superstar Salman Khan as brand ambassador and he will be getting the message out about History to Indian consumers.

Reaching 40 million homes means the channel will only be behind its counterpart in the US in terms of distribution and it will be the biggest international History from launch.

“The Indian market has challenges, but there are big opportunities – there is an enormous population base and a growing middle class and TV industry,” Cohan told TBIvision. “The percentage of overall viewing in the factual category is quite small and we think there is an opportunity to move the needle in that category.”

Long term Cohan said History can be the top factual channel in India. “The competition has been there a long time, but we think we can be number one, albeit not in the first year,” he said.

A+E and Network18 announced their JV last August and subsequently brought in Ajay Chacko to run the division. There are plans to launch Bio and other A+E channels in India.

A+E has had a service in India before, with The History Channel, which was operated as a joint venture with Fox. It launched in 2003, but came off air in 2008 when that deal expired.