Discovery Ready to Play, Spend Big in India Push
The channel will enter new genres and change the programming mix in a bid to regain growth under the new leadership
Mumbai: After reviewing its India operations, Discovery India has rejigged its strategy with a focus to regain growth under the leadership of newly appointed senior VP and general manager - South Asia, Karan Bajaj. The media company will now follow a two pronged approach; entering new genres and changing the programming mix.
As part of its new strategy, the company has announced the launch of its sports channel DSPORT on Monday, while also announcing a significant increase in the investments into programming.
“We are going to invest millions of dollars in India and by end of 2017, India will be one of the top 3 fastest growing markets for Discovery across the world,” Bajaj said.
“We will reinvent the core organic properties by acting like a category leader,” he added.
India has been a key market for Discovery Communications, the world’s largest factual entertainment company.
However, the global bosses in the company were not too pleased with the performance for some time, which resulted in a major business realignment and leadership change exercise.
In the last few months, the India business has seen significant changes, including realignment into two verticals – Females & Family (TLC, Discovery Kids and ID) and Real World (Discovery Channel, Animal Planet). However, industry watchers say that Discovery Network is losing on two grounds - its relevance in India is under attack with stiff competition from strong brands like History TV18, NGC and upcoming Sony BBC Earth, and it doesn’t have a strong bouquet of channels and thus a negotiating power in absence of channels in sports, general entertainment and movie genres.
“Sports, general entertainment and movie channels take up over 80% of the total ad pie. The distribution deals (charge per subscriber) need driver channels and content. The driver channel (Discovery Channel) too is devoid of strong BBC earth content of the glory days. Hence, network would have limited appeal,” opined Sunil Punjabi, senior media consultant and former business head at Sony Pictures Networks.
However, Bajaj is hopeful of meeting the ambitious targets set by the global bosses, as the company gearing up to re-launch its flagship brand, Discovery Channel, with a much higher local flavour. “The way to grow is to expand the whole category by serving a deeper set of consumers. Our historical skew has been very metro, tier I. We are going after Tier II and III consumers with same brand promise of opening windows to an extraordinary world,” Bajaj added.
Interestingly, from average of five hours of local content per year, Discovery Channel will have 200 hours of local programming, starting June this year.
The company will also expand the genres it has been covering on the flagship channel – survival and outdoor, which Bajaj feels has a limited space – to genres of crime, military, and inspirational. “We are making a big bet into expanding the genres, changing the scale of local programming. If you think of discovery, you think of documentaries. So we are moving towards a storytelling approach,” he added.
Meanwhile, on sports front, the company will not go after flashy or big ticket acquisitions. It will have over 4,000 hours of live programming, including over 2,000 hours of horse racing, 900 hours of football, three of the four top golf majors and rugby.
As part of its new strategy, the company has announced the launch of its sports channel DSPORT on Monday