‘4G Launch will Usher in Exciting Time for Discovery in India’
Discovery Communications, the world’s largest non-fiction media company with revenues of $6.4 billion, has completed 20 years of operation in India, one of its top markets where it runs 11 channels. Jean-Briac Perrette, president of Discovery Networks International has set an ambitious target for India and looks to leverage the country’s leapfrog into 4G for what he calls the new chapter for the broadcaster. Perrette spoke to Gaurav Laghate on his vision for the Indian and international businesses. Edited excerpts:
How important is India for you? India is a top growth priority for us to have an even bigger representation in the market. So India comes ahead of other BRIC countries in your plan? When I took over this role 2 years ago, I looked at the international portfolio and the biggest markets — India, China, Brazil, and Russia, the big four. We have a great presence in most of these markets, but right now, Brazil and Russia are going through difficult times and China is complicated, so that leaves one market which ultimately we think is massive opportunity where we can do a lot more.
Is that why we are seeing a change in the leadership here? Our Asia-Pacific business, as a percentage of the total business, was small. Now if you look at just the population and pure dynamics, we want this business to be in multiples bigger in the next 5 years than it is today. So we brought Arthur (Bastings, president, Discovery Asia-Pacific) who was with us and helped transform our business in Europe and spent time in the mobile and digital space. India is known for leapfrogging technology and mobile will be huge. Also, as we look at the Indian market today we want to set a new chapter and we think this is a very exciting and dynamic time with the launch of 4G and mobile technology... we want to reignite our strategy in the market.
So who is going to head the India business now? Have you identified the new leader? Currently Arthur is helping the team and we are looking for a non-traditional person with more mobile and digital experience, than with just traditional television.
What can we expect from Discovery in India, in new genres and launches? The great thing about us as a company is that we have a lot of ambition and we don’t have a rule to leave anything out. That said, we also are disciplined and try to be smart where we think we can make a difference and add value. We don’t just looking to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in India like others have.
So will you be looking at acquisitions and/ or joint ventures in India? We are not ruling anything out but we will stay disciplined and smart about how we approach it and we don’t have a one model that says it has to be this.
How profitable has India been for you? It’s been incredibly successful and profitable business for us. What we are hoping to do is investing more. Do you see possibility of your sports business, Eurosport, launching in India? I think as we look at India and rest of Asia, sports certainly is a category that we continue to look at.
But India is a very different market when it comes to sports considering high affinity to cricket and high acquisition cost. Do you still see value there? We have seen the dynamics, but look at Europe, we don’t play the high premium sports business. Cricket and IPL comes in top of that list here. The reality is, we play in what I call the speciality or passion sports – tennis, cycling, winter sports etc. We have made a very successful business out of that. Just like there is not one India, there is not one sport. We can play in lot of different segments.