DSPORT has a clear ambition to redefine sports engagement,
by giving viewers access to unmatched ‘live’ sporting action from around the
With a view to expand its footprint in India beyond
infotainment, Discovery Communications has launched 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. Discovery has been present in India for nearly 20 years with different
global brands such as Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal
Planet, Science and Turbo/Velocity.
Karan Bajaj, senior vice president and general manager,
Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific says, “We are excited to add yet another
flagship brand to our growing offering with the launch of DSPORT, which is set
to redefine sports entertainment. Combining India’s passion for sports with our
global expertise in sports production DSPORT will offer a daily dose of 10+
hours of live content for viewers across the country.”
Discovery already has a huge presence in sports broadcast in
Europe through Eurosport. The launch of DSPORT in India perfectly complements
the wider strategy to provide fans with more live action across a plethora of
sporting genres, the company said. Discovery becomes the most recent entrant in
the sports broadcasting business in India. Star India, Sony Pictures Networks,
Essel Group’s Ten Sports Networks, Nimbus Communications and Doordarshan’s DD
Sports are already operating in the category. 2.1% of total television
viewership comes from sports genre.
Content & Distribution
Among the sports properties that the new channel will offer
include football from Brazilian League, Chinese Super League, Portuguese League
and Major League Soccer (USA); golf from British Open, US Open, PGA
Championship and LPGA; NASCAR motor racing, and six Nations Rugby along with UK
and Irish horse racing events.
“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”.
“We know exactly who
we are getting after. So it is not like we are spreading ourselves too thin by
buying rights here and there. We are building scale in properties that we think
have a wide viewership in India, who don’t have currently access to them. We
are picking up sports based on three criteria — popular, unmet and causing a
disruption — (if we do that in our acquisition) then it is a home run for us,”
DSPORT is in advanced negotiations for selected high quality
cricket events to add to its portfolio. “We are in advanced discussions with
one or two cricket boards. If the business model turns out be right, if the
properties are at the right valuation and we feel we can add value to it, we
buy it. If we have enough live hours then we will buy it. We will have cricket
very soon on the channel in next couple of months,” Bajaj said.
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.