In a conversation with e4m, Issac John, Business Head- Digital (South Asia), Discovery, spoke about the channel’s OTT platform, Discovery+ and the importance of vernacular market in India
Tell us about the launch of Discovey+.
It’s been three months since we launched. When we went into the market, we had a very strong premise in our strategy as differentiated OTT. Three months down the line, we can proudly say that consumers have welcomed us with like open arms.
The consumer reaction is encouraging. Our viewers believe that Discovery+ is a platform, which is educational, inspirational, and is a better use of their time than other OTTs. We are also rated highly on both the App Store and Play Store. In a short time since the launch, we have clearly established that there is space for a differentiated OTT in the market to occupy the consumer mind space.
Our brand, Discovery, always had a very strong learning approach in our perception and positioning. On Discovery+, while we have built this learning vector, we are also making it stronger with the introduction of carefully curated BBC content, which will launch on the app in a month’s time. Interestingly, we also observed an emergence of consumer groups with certain passion verticals, which have stood out and given us a lot of confidence. This includes our food shows and auto shows. We just launch Investigation as a category, and that is also doing really well.
Overall, we have not only maintained our strength in the learning vector, but we’re also opening up this new vector of passion communities, in the digital space, for whom Discovery+ will become one destination for all passion consumption.
How has the business been in the last three months?
We are actually a lockdown baby and only know how we have performed during the lockdown. As far as our business goals are concerned, they have more than matched up to our expectations. The platform is doing exceedingly well. We are being even more aggressive in the Indian market given the consumer reaction. Our differentiation has proved itself as our biggest strength. The brand name Discovery has also given us a significant advantage in the market.
Discovery focused on languages way before anyone else did. How important is languages for the brand at this point? Does digital too have the same focus on languages?
The vernacular market is extremely important for us. 70% of the content on our platform is available in at least five languages, which include English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali. Another 20% is available in Malayalam and Kannada as well. We are very deeply entrenched in the language space and we are seeing good results. The top-performing shows on our platform are the ones typically available in multiple languages. We believe that the digital world is also a very friendly vernacular market, and thanks to our content in local languages, we are able to reap those dividends on our digital platform.
How important is the India market for Discovery on digital? What are your plans for the market?
India is a very important strategic market for Discovery globally. With the way we have launched Discovery +, we are not holding back in any way to leverage the strategic importance of India. We will be even more aggressive in our journey in the country and will announce our next steps in the direction to expand our digital footprint in India soon, which include carefully curated content from the BBC.
Tell us about your ‘Big Screen Delight’ campaign. How has it taken off in India?
The ‘Big Screen Delight’ was primarily launched as an experience for TV because our users told us that they want to experience Discovery+ on a big screen. India being a very Android heavy market, we had prioritized ‘Chromecast’ in our product roadmap, so that people could consume Discovery+ on big screens through it. But, a lot of users still demanded the release of Android TV or Fire TV, and we took that as a cue for the campaign.
Our consumers told us that they love the big-screen experience on Television and we took that insight and decided to celebrate the launch of Discovery+ on Fire TV. We went ahead and did a four-week exclusive partnership with Amazon Fire TV from June 4. They were the only platform that was able to give the Smart TV experience for the first four weeks, and now we are also launching our Android TV soon. It was the second most demanded platform request from our consumers.
Tell us about the content line up for the Unlock phase.
The content premieres on the app did not slow down during lockdown. We launched with a particular bank of shows. W had also acquired, commissioned, and scheduled, content for releases in the near future. For example, a couple of weeks ago, when NASA sent the spaceship, Crew Dragon to the space station, we already had two specials on it. That particular week they were the top shows on our platform because people wanted to know what is really happening. The good thing about working with a global brand like Discovery is that we’re always able to expose your audiences to new and absolutely top of the notch premium content, which people cannot get elsewhere. We were able to do the same throughout the lockdown. We recently launched the latest season of ‘Project Runway’, which is targeted at fashion communities. We believe it will bring in new, premium female audiences to the platform. We’ve planned our calendar in a way, that at any point of time, between the learning vector and the passionate community vector, we always have something new to offer. In a month, we’ll also be launching content from BBC on our platform.
Which are the markets from where you are getting maximum traction from?
The split between tier two and tier three markets has been pretty even. The ratio is 55:45 right now, wherein 55% of our consumption is happening from tier one, the top eight cities, and the rest of India is contributing 45%. The percentage goes back to what the brand really stands for. Discovery as a brand stands for immeasurable trust and credibility, and that credibility cuts across all of India. I believe that going forward our split will be a lot more even compared to any other platforms. Trust in our brand cuts across demographics and geography.
You launched during the lockdown, did it prove advantageous for you?
Unlike most other brands, we don’t know whether our growth accelerated during COVID-19. We launch on the eve of lockdown. Initially, lockdown might have been a trigger for increased consumption, but for the community of our audience, learning is an interminable need. In that sense, our product is more time agnostic. Therefore, we might have had an advantage, but it is more to do with the differentiation that we have than anything else.
What were you preferred mediums to reach the consumer about the lunch during a lockdown?
We reached the audience through a combination of TV and digital. In the first phase, we reached out to our core Discovery audiences in a big way, by leveraging our network strength. We reach out to about 130 million people, month on month, through our television network channels, which includes Discovery Kids, Eurosport, Discovery, Animal Planet. TLC, and Turbo. In the next phase, we used a combination of external TV media and digital in a big way. We just concluded our two-week media campaign, led by our partner M6. Now, we are also doubling down on digital and performance marketing in a significant way.