Foraying into new frontiers

Discovery Communications in India is fast getting into the digital space with new packaging and content to attract mass audience

Foraying into new frontiers
Foraying into new frontiers

It’s an ‘action-packed’ moment at Discovery Communications in India that recently announced its plans to disrupt the digital space with the launch of bespoke direct-to-consumer, social and mobile-first channels in early 2018.

The network is changing its image in India, adding content for general and mass entertainment to grab market share. It hopes to triple its business in next three years, says Karan Bajaj, senior vice president general manager, South Asia, Discovery Networks Asia Pacific. “We are investing heavily into content and programming. Jeet is 1000 hours of content so is with Kids and even for TLC we are outsourcing a lot of Indian content,” he says.

It is understood the new mobile-first channels will focus on four core-interest areas – ‘Military’, ‘Girlist’, ‘Automotive’ and ‘Food’. The first two channels to launch will be VEER by Discovery and RISE by TLC in Q1 2018, which would be followed by specialist automotive and food focused mobile-first channels later in the year.

All these come after the proposed launch of general entertainment channel Discovery Jeet, targeted at the male audience. The network has partnered with YouTube, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Play to optimise the launch of these channels and improve its reach across social and mobile platforms.

RISE by TLC will be a brand with style – no preachy messages, no boring revolution – it will bring alive edgy, ‘girl power’ of storytelling, explians Bajaj.

TLC in September debuted Queens of Comedy, India’s first-ever female comedy show on social media and received extremely enthusiastic response with over 16 million views across platforms. The show saw 95 per cent organic views.

Discovery has planned a two-pronged growth for the next fiscal – going aggressive on digital content with a clear focus on general entertainment targeting regional audience.

Ever since Bajaj took over South Asia for Discovery Networks Asia Pacific in October 2016, the channel has seen a sea change.

He feels there is a huge audience for Discovery, TLC and Animal Planet on digital plartform as much as on TV. “We are creating an eco system for them in the digital world. That’s the two-pronged strategy – enter 120 million through TV and convert the top viewers to the digital platform.

“We think the grammar of the content is different – for smartphone the content needs to be a 5-7 min storytelling,” he explains.

One of the first announcements after Bajaj took over was the restructuring of Discovery India into two verticals - females and family entertainment product like TLC, Discovery Kids and ID and the HD and language feeds and real world entertainment products like Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Science and Turbo and the HD and language feeds. The network entered a new genre in India – sports - with DSport in February 2017, and will now reach out to mass audience with Discovery Jeet, he says.

The tone of the campaign, according to Bajaj, will not be of ‘upliftment’. It will be rather celebration of the content.

According to him every network has a philosophy and Jeet has an Indian heart, while Discovery and TLC stand for windows to the world.

Discovery Jeet, says Bajaj, will “serve under-served audiences with a targeted, clear and sharp proposition” in line with Discovery’s core proposition. “Our research shows that this segment has a sense of possibility and the potential is very high,” he adds.

Agency Taproot Dentsu has grabbed the creative rights for the Jeet promo.

As Agnello Dias, Co-founder and CCO, Taproot Dentsu says “Both the programming content and quality on Discovery Jeet is refreshing and quite unlike other general entertainment channels. Their vision is inspiring and we were keen to be part of the launch of this exciting new channel. Their fresh approach extends to the way they are envisioning the promos of their lead shows for which we are working with them. The brief was very clear; engage the GEC audience in a way they haven’t been engaged before. I think we have successfully risen to this challenge. The promotions will be out soon.”

Bajaj however feels Discovery as a brand is purpose-driven and hence it is important to have an entertaining channel. Jeet will be available in the Tamil, Bengali and Telugu feeds and the target is for it to be distributed in 120 million households at launch. Talking about advertiser interest, Bajaj explains the channel is a good fit for brands, particularly that have a strong definition of what their purpose is.
“We are mounting larger-than-life stories that are fact-based in an entertaining way and inspiring in the Discovery-esque way? We are very clear that we have a legacy of being documentary-makers and we don’t want to be documentary-makers at all. This has to go head to head with the most entertaining story on television today.”

He is not really worried about competition. He feels leaders need to grow the category. “To bring about content disruption in the kids’ space by creating must-have IPs (intellectual properties) and so is regionalisation,” he says.

Discovery Kids is another channel that Bajaj is focusing on. In a category where over 90 per cent of the market is already captured by three big players like Viacom18, Turner and Disney.

With Sony too entering this space it will be interesting to see how Discovery Kids makes its mark.

Bajaj believes that content will be the key differentiator for Discovery. He says, “For kids, there is no business model differentiation, instead we are going at differentiated content.”

What we can expect soon is Discovery’s move into the Digital space. 

“India is a pyramid where Discovery’s affinity has been very strong with the top 50 million households, global travel, knowledge etc. We are entering the next 120 million households with Discovery Jeet and kids reinvention. On the top 50 million households we are doing a very significant digital outreach for our networks,” he explains.

The network hopes to triple its viewership with the launch of digital for consumers to see shows on TV and smartphones.

Aggregators have their own platforms and then there are communities – passionate communities, he feels. “We know our content have passionate viewers be it outdoor, auto or food content – we aim to be the leader and creater of those communities and distribute it to varied platform from social networks to telcos – we are platform agnostic when it comes to content delivery.”

So that when Discovery Communications approaches an advertiser or a consumer, it can be perceived both as a linear and digital brand.

“We want to achieve a versatile growth with a purpose. It’s a very measured ambition to enter new categories where we feel we can create a differentiated purpose. Can we elevate the quality of story telling? How do you go mass and yet not disturb the philosophy of discovery” he adds.