‘Discovering’ the mass-premium play

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Updated: January 23, 2018 2:38:44 AM

Discovery is entering a very competitive genre. The genre is extremely dependent on numbers; while advertisers will sample, premium rates only come in if it is a big reality show

Discovery Communications India, Hindi GEC, Discovery Jeet, Karan Bajaj, South Asia, Discovery Communications India, Karan Bajaj, Sameer Rao, Mahindra & Mahindra, DSportThe pay TV channel will reach over 100 million households, starting with five hours of daily programming, of which three hours will be bespoke, ground-up original programming built on the thesis of the underdog winning.

Chandni.Mathur @expressindia.com

For an infotainment player like Discovery Communications India, innovation in the last few years has been limited to bringing in more factual content or launching new niche channels. However, with the emergence of co-viewing and audiences migrating towards digital services, the need to expand its reach and enter the mass entertainment space has only increased for Discovery. As a result, the network has now restructured itself to target two audience segments — premium and mass. The network has launched a Hindi GEC — Discovery Jeet — which will start airing on February 12, and will focus on tier II and III markets. “With Jeet, our attempt is to enter these homes. We want to entertain at a large scale but with inspirational stories,” states Karan Bajaj, SVP and GM, South Asia, Discovery Communications India.

The pay TV channel will reach over 100 million households, starting with five hours of daily programming, of which three hours will be bespoke, ground-up original programming built on the thesis of the underdog winning. The channel will also allow for watching content dubbed in Tamil and Telugu. The network has partnered with Netflix to stream content from the channel post TV airing. Sameer Rao, VP and head of mass entertainment South Asia, Discovery Communications India says, “We took an exercise internally on what the Discovery brand is all about and what is the next stage of evolution, since the network has been around for 20 years as a factual brand. We want to be a serious local player and the idea for Jeet came from there.” While the channel was earlier positioned as a male-oriented GEC, the leadership team insists that it is a family-viewing channel — a change it has made internally given the fact that its target markets are single TV households.

“Discovery is entering a very competitive genre. While it has a strong content line-up, we have seen in the past that until people sample the channel, they do not stick on,” asserts Navin Khemka, managing partner, Wavemaker India. “The genre is extremely dependent on numbers; while advertisers will sample, premium rates only come in if it is a big reality show.”

The digital push

As Jeet attempts to make a mark in the Rs 6,000-7,000 crore Hindi GEC genre, the network is also gearing up to launch its mobile-first channels Veer by Discovery on January 26 and Rise by TLC following it. Auto by Discovery and Food by TLC will launch later in the year. The aim is to build a passionate community that is driving around 15% of digital video consumption in India in the lifestyle/factual genre rather than building an OTT platform, the company states. It will act as a pivot on the premium network side. The network has partnered with YouTube, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Play and Facebook for reach.

Sources inform that Veer by Discovery has signed on advertising partners like Thums Up, Swiggy and Mahindra & Mahindra. “Our core network should become digital and we should launch a mass entertainment product as that is the way to create a scalable business in India,” highlights Bajaj, adding, “Veer is a mass phenomenon and will expand the reach of Discovery in India.”

Measured bets

Meanwhile, Discovery Kids is undergoing massive reinvention too and local content will be the way, going forward. Sources tell BrandWagon that the channel is building a large IP which will be the frontrunner; having learnt earlier that Kids wasn’t working well as children relate to characters more than a show/channel. The revamped channel will be unveiled in March-April, 2018. Discovery’s sports channel DSport was expected to be the network’s big bang entry into the highly competitive sports broadcasting genre in India. The channel currently features sports like cycling, motor sports and poker with properties such as New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Poker Sports League, which fall under the niche category. So what’s keeping it going? Bajaj explains, “DSport is doing what it was meant to be. It was a learning into sport and we will scale it up at the right time. We are reinventing the premium networks first.”

With Discovery, Animal Planet, DSport and TLC leading the premium targeting, and Jeet and Discovery Kids bringing in masses, the digital channels are attempting to bridge the divide between the two. But the question is, will Discovery be able to balance it out? “Discovery has been a strong brand in India and given that it has been here for over 20 years, it can take this plunge. It has to do it,” believes Khemka, adding, “In the last five to six years, there haven’t been too many changes from the network. Channels like Discovery Science and Turbo were not marketed and were sold as a package, so the network had stagnated somewhere. This is its only hope to get into the big league.”

@chandni_mathur

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