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Discovery Channel to scale up local content to 200 hours

Karan Bajaj, Senior Vice-President & General Manager, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, shares his vision to expand the network’s footprint in India

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | February 7, 2017

Karan-Bajaj Karan Bajaj

Discovery Channel which currently has about 5-10 hours of local content every year has announced its intention to scale this up to 200 hours from June, 2017. Commissioning has already begun and by the end of 2017, the channel will give fifty-fifty weightage to local and international content.

“The scale of investment is very high and also because of the quality of content and production. The spends in marketing will be proportionate since we are widening the consumer base from the Mumbai-Delhi (read metro) markets to tier II cities,” explained Karan Bajaj, Senior Vice-President & General Manager, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific. “Localisation of the network is a strategy that will be announced soon,” he said.

The strategy of the localised content will be to keep the same brand purpose and understand what the consumer needs are. The network says it will offer windows to the extraordinary. “In the past, this purpose translated into programming that included outdoor, earth and animals. Now, the tier II consumer is telling us about four sub-genres.”

Bajaj said, “It gets very exciting because we have a lot to say, inspirational stories, outdoor (animal and earth), stories around military and large canvas crime. So there are two ecosystems we see in India; news-factual and general entertainment ecosystems. The combination of these is what is Discovery. It is surprising that it has been easy and interesting to find these (genre specific) stories from the heartland. We are expanding genre wise, outdoor is very universal and then inspirational, crime and military. Our aim is not to become a 100 per cent local network because that won’t make sense to us.”

The network is closely looking at how the content is treated and produced. Since the smaller towns are watching more of Bollywood and larger than life content, the network is trying to produce content in that tonality. “The content will be produced in a manner that is very ‘character driven larger than life narratives’. It is because that is what the consumers are really interested in.”

The organic growth is being expected from this expansion of local content base, while the inorganic growth will be derived from the launches like DSport and licensing of content.

Bajaj further added, “Our decision to invest in the local content is very purposeful. We can be the leaders in the category. The business model is robust, though the investments are quite high.”

From the team size perspective, the network has made a lot of recent hires, Sameer Rao has been brought in as VP, Real World Products, to run the content side and there is a new ad sales leader. The sports channel has got RC Venkateish, who is a very experienced hand in the broadcast industry who has come on board as a consultant.

“We will get into regionalisation but our first step is localisation. Someone sitting in the US can’t design local content for India and we have set up a team here for that. Similarly, for regional pockets like South and Bengal, we will have to go deeper in the markets, but that is step two. We will have to round off teams in those markets. We are being thoughtful when we say that since Tamil is making sense to us, instead of getting a Tamil feed, let’s get a team to Tamil Nadu and make content there. So, a lot of calculation will go into thinking which markets will allow a justified investment in that sense.”

The network is very clear that its first focus is the Hindi-speaking market (HSM) and Tamil Nadu and then come the regional markets.

About going digital, the network has no plans to launch its own platform. The network is working on a hypothesis that suggests using established digital platforms (like Hotstar, Ditto TV or Netflix) is better as of now. Bajaj explained, “We have evaluated that we will win by two things -- one is remarkable IPs. If we own a good strong IP, then there are multiple platforms to distribute it. Second is to create digital native brands. These are not broadcaster brands on digital but a hard-core digital first brands.”

“We are not planning to launch an independent platform. Our current hypothesis is that (over-the-top) OTT economics is such that the acquisition cost is very high and retention is very poor, it is a very long term matter,” added Bajaj.

The network is looking at a coherent perspective and is in discussions with a few players (telcos) to announce the tie-up soon. The network will also have an app, but only as a container to distribute the content with the partners.

Soon, TLC and Kids might also go high on local content, based on what the consumers want to see on the channel. Right now, TLC is more of a female skewed content.

“We are not planning any more launches in 2017. We decided to shut Food Food because there were mutual conditions which both parties didn’t meet,” concluded Bajaj.

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