‘Discovery Plus wants to offer the highest echelon of content’

Megha Tata, Managing Director – South Asia, and Issac John, Business Head – Digital (South Asia) at Discovery share an in-depth understanding of the latest offering, Discovery Plus

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Published: Mar 17, 2020 8:51 AM  | 8 min read
Megha Tata and Issac John

The wait for Discovery’s streaming app is finally over, the real life entertainment channel announced the launch of Discovery Plus, priced at Rs 299 a year for the price sensitive India market.

The app will also exclusively stream Rajinikanth’s TV debut show – ‘Into The Wild With Bear Grylls’ – two hours before its television premiere on March 23. Thalaiva’s fans will also get an exclusive ‘behind the scene’ sneak peak of the show to sweeten the deal.

For an in-depth understanding of their latest offering, exchange4media caught up with Megha Tata, Managing Director – South Asia and Issac John, Business Head – Digital (South Asia) at Discovery.

Following are the edited excerpts of the interview:

What made Discovery enter the digital entertainment space?

Megha Tata: While our linear space is doing well and will continue to be our focus, we also realized a lot of content is now getting consumed on multiple other devices outside of the TV world, which is a fact as well. We realized that if our audience also wants to consume this content on a platform, at their own convenience, on their own device, in the format of their choice, then we should be able to provide that to them. That was the genesis of our thought process that we need to be in the D2C space as well.

Secondly, because there are so many players in the market, internally we debated several times, and rightfully so, if there was an appetite for another OTT to be consumed and subscribed for? This was a very valid question which required a lot of discussion and debate. We went through the research route as well and also brought our own insight and understanding of the genre.

If you actually visualize a Venn diagram and put all the existing OTT players on the left side of the diagram you will see that all of them are fighting for the scripted entertainment space. Everyone is trying to outdo the other and the cost of content is huge, I'm not sure how sustainable that model is to spend so much on content. On the other hand of the Venn diagram, for the non-scripted space, there was nobody out there, it was a blank space. In the shared area, they were maybe a few players who had a bit of this kind of content from the non-scripted space. When you look at the number of hours they have versus what we were planning to bring, it was shocking, there was no comparison. That became a strong proposition that there is a market for us to bring in the platform.

And the third thing was that, to the point on cost of content being so prohibitive, when we looked at the kind of content we were bringing, we were talking a library worth of 300,000 hours of content, which gets replenished every year, up to nearly 8000 hours of content and that is the richness of this content which people in this part of the world have not seen yet. We didn't just copy paste but we created and curated a product, which was for India, by India, keeping in mind what the Indian audiences want to consume, in the format, in the language they want and Discovery Plus was born.

Is Discovery Plus specifically designed only for India?

Megha Tata: It is only an India product right now, this kind of product doesn't exist anywhere. There are multiple D2C offerings around the globe but Discovery Play is the first aggregated app in India.

Can you tell us about the exclusive features and the content for your digital platform?

Issac John: When we ventured into this project, we essentially wanted to understand how Discovery can be relevant for the Indian consumer in a new age time when there is a lot of content all over. The first decision that we took early was that if we put out our 20 minutes, 40 minutes and 60 minutes specials it would give us some adoption. But that's not the full potential of what we can really do in this market, if you look at the app, it has a section called Shorts, what's coming through there is the fact that we have made the effort to make these self-contained pieces from our content bank, which are thrilling and gripping in their own right. That is the bespoke experience that we wanted to give Discovery loyalists on the app.

Secondly, you will also see a section called MindBlown which is a curated collection of thematic specials from across our collection. Those are the kind of efforts that we have taken to enable easy discoverability and for the user to get to the content quicker. Those are the two very unique sections which are digitally exclusive.

The third thing is the breadth of our content and digital exclusives that we will be dropping on the app, there is at least one digital exclusive which will which will drop on the app every month. So, in the space that we operate in, we want to offer the best and the highest echelon of content that is there.

How do you plan to monetize your platform, could you share your revenue model?

Issac John: We've been around for 25 years on the linear side of the business and we completely operate all our channels on the pay TV universe. We believe that people do pay for trustworthy, credible, high value premium IP. And that's essentially our going in mantra, as we launched Discovery Plus.

We have this SVOD model which is at 299 rupees a year. We did not want price to be a barrier for consumers to download the app or watch premium content. At 299 a year it is the most competitive OTT offering out there today. And also the articulation of it is very easy for consumers to understand because we are saying that in less a rupee a day here is a bunch of premium content, kids friendly and brands safe.

On the AVOD side, the reason why we were also keen to have one was because India is a market which is already attuned to free video consumption. We felt there is no reason for us not to give a compelling proposition there as well. The Shorts section is completely free and it essentially has got a lot of content which we will be dropping every day for free on the app. The older seasons of long form shows will also be available for free.

What will be your own marketing strategy for the platform?

Issac John: We have done some study to see who the core affinity lead consumers for our content are. And we have a set of 25 million people who are already within a subset of 150 million people who are already watching us and these 25 million are essentially watching more than three hours a month of Discovery and our associated channels. We're going after them through our in house network. Apart from that, we have kick started as of last night a very specific performance marketing campaign which is targeted at adventure, lifestyle and food enthusiasts. The beauty of the kind of content that we have is that it's very easy to see a pattern of the kind of true affinity that you have as a consumer. We have seen some very interesting results in terms of our core consumer acquisition already, which is very rare for a new OTT platforms which normally takes time to scale. But it seems that you we were able to scale up fairly quickly very fast.

Could you tell us about your partnership with Google Pay for the app?

Issac John: We were able to arrive at a very interesting model with Google Pay wherein there is a specific ad promo, which will start on our channels from 20th- 23rd. Whenever that promo comes, its users can use the Google Pay feature and they will get either free subscriptions or 30%-40% off on subscriptions. This will also be available for the first four minutes of the Rajnikant special on March 23rd. Whenever people listen to the first four minutes of the Rajinikanth episode, they can use the Google Play on-air feature, there is a set of rewards that we have enabled for Google pay users, so it's very unique. It is a first of its kind integration that's going to launch and from some of the initial trials that we have done it will be something very exciting to look out for.

Have you felt the impact of the Coronavirus on production of shows?

Megha Tata:
Our content is already there, produced and owned so it hasn’t impacted our content.

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