DSPORT has a clear ambition to redefine sports engagement, by giving viewers access to unmatched ‘live’ sporting action from around the world.

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,” he added.

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.

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