Karan Bajaj, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific
With a view to expand its footprint in India beyond infotainment, Discovery Communications today announced the launch of a new premium sports channel, DSPORT. The channel will broadcast 4,000 hours of live content annually, across sporting genres like horse racing, football, golf, rugby and cycling.
“This [4,000 hours of live sports content] is 3-4 times more than the competing channels,” says Karan Bajaj, senior vice president & general manager, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific. “Discovery Communications has been a dominant factual entertainment brand and has enjoyed leadership position in India for 20 years. Now, we are also looking at other areas like sports and kids’ entertainment,” he adds. This is one of the first major announcements from the company since Bajaj’s appointment in July last year.
“India is a priority market for Discovery globally and we are making significant investments both on the organic as well as inorganic sides,” says Bajaj. Though he didn’t state the exact number, Bajaj said that the investments for the new initiatives run into “millions of dollars”.
The company has made a number of sporting acquisitions in the previous years, including European television sports network Eurosport and the broadcast rights to Bundesliga, a professional football league in Germany. The channel has started offering over 10 hours of live content for viewers across the country from Monday. 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.
RC Venkateish, former MD of ESPN Star and former CEO of Dish TV India, will be working closely with DSPORT, especially in areas related to content acquisition for the channel. The channel is currently in advanced talks for selected high quality cricket events in addition to other sports.
“If the sport is popular, the need for it is unmet and if there is a chance of disruption, then it is a home-run for us,” says Bajaj, when asked how the company will pick the sports to be broadcasted.
Bajaj also announced that the company is embarking on a new strategy of expansion. While, until now, Discovery Communications had five hours of local content annually, the company plans to take this up to 200 hours of local content by the end of 2017. “It would be across genres like military, crime and inspiration, for instance, on Discovery,” says Bajaj. The localisation strategy will start with Discovery channel in June and would be extended to its subsidiaries, like TLC, going forward.
“From urban niche, we are going after Tier II consumers while still retaining the Discovery philosophy of ‘opening extraordinary worlds’ for the viewers,” explains Bajaj. He added that more information on plans for the kids genre and detailed broadcast programmes for local content to be aired on Discovery will follow in the coming weeks.