American broadcaster Discovery Communications has started the year with a bang with the launch of its new sports channel in India called DSPORT. Offering 4000 hours of live sporting content, the channel is all geared up to offer IPs that has huge takers in India, and in the process, edge past others in the country’s overcrowded sports broadcasting sector. It will be broadcast to 35 million households today and will be available via a subscription model on both DTH and cable in both HD and SD formats. The channel which took 9-12 months to launch will soon bring on board male-targeted advertisers in less than a month.
Discovery Communications’ robust investment strategy in India with plans to pump in money in local content and marketing to widen its reach is also another highlight. Karan Bajaj, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, tells us more on the new sports channel DSPORT’s USP and the network’s strategy to broaden its footprint in India.
Where DSPORT stands out
With no disruption in the sporting environment in India since 2006, DSPORT fits in well. Its catalogue of 4000+ hours of live content including 2000 hours of horse racing (from the best of UK and Irish tracks summing up to over 7000 races per year), 900 hours of soccer covering major leagues (Brazilian League, Chinese Super League and Portuguese League, amongst others), important golf tournaments like British Open, US Open and LPGA, best of motosports like NASCAR, Tour de France cycling tournament and 6 nations rugby is the prime differentiator here. Bajaj mentions that the duration of live content in DSPORT, ‘is 3-4 times more than that of the next broadcaster in terms of sports.’
He shares the approach taken for selecting varied sports and tournaments for the channel, “We are building scale in properties that has a right viewership in India but nobody has any access to them. Horse racing is the second most gated sports in India with eight million Indians attending it. No broadcaster has done it consistently. Soccer is the fastest growing sports with 125 million viewers. We are delivering 900 hours of live content over here, more than any other network. Soccer properties are spaced around the day with Major League Soccer in the morning, Chinese League in the afternoon, Portuguese League in the evening and Brazilian League in the night. None of the Grand Slams of golf (with 65 million viewers) is in India. So we picked up three major tournaments. There’s a mix of interesting international content, that’s premium, has popularity in India and not been served in broadcast space on the channel.”
In short he looks at three criteria, “Is it a popular sport? Is there an unmet need there that we can serve? Is there a disruption we can cause in the licenses that we acquire?”
Cricket is not getting overlooked, Bajaj ensures, as the channel is in negotiations to bring interesting cricket properties soon.
India: top investment destination
According to Bajaj, India has been one of the top priority markets for Discovery Communications’ robust investment strategy. “India is the top investment destination for us. Investment will run into millions of dollars both local content and sports etc. We are investing in multiple platforms (linear and digital), genres and IPs that makes for great digital viewership and otherwise in India. We have an aggressive expansion strategy both organically and inorganically. We are investing in white space areas very thoughtfully, where we see scale.”
Emphasis on local content is evident. Bajaj adds, “India loves its facts. This is where fact-driven entertainment can work. We have so much interest in politics, Bollywood and sports. If we are able to create an entertainment network which has facts then it becomes very interesting. That’s something unique to us. We are investing in local content in a purposeful and interesting way. Regionalisation starts with the next step of localisation which we are doing thoughtfully because that requires business investment.”
He gives us an idea on the scale of investment on local content, “In the last 10 years, the average of local content on Discovery channel is 5-10 hours a year. In 2017, we will end up at 200 hours with same production qualities and values. It will be 50 per cent international and 50 per cent local content. It will happen genre wise.”
Focus is also on the tier-two and three consumers, as specified by Bajaj as Discovery sets to widen its reach its India. “On content, we are looking at what tier-two and three consumers need. Genres like crime, inspiration and military will be introduced in local content where we are building scale. Overall, we are looking at purpose-driven entertaining content. Discovery’s footprint will broaden in terms of consumers’ location and nature of newly introduced genres. ”
Marketing efforts will also expand beyond metros to cities like Pune and Agartala as the network is looking to widen their consumer base. The localisation strategy will start with Discovery channel in June and would be extended to its subsidiaries, like TLC, going forward.
On the digital front, Bajaj is extremely confident, “We will win by two things: remarkable IPs which serves both broadcast and digital, and creation of digital native brands with digital native partners. For the former, there are multiple platforms to distribute it.”
He is ruling out OTT platform as acquisition costs are very high and retention is very poor. “We will focus on content and brand game because that’s where our strength lies.”