Television

Discovery: Pushing the boundaries of infotainment

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Variety and innovation are becoming increasingly important in the niche English entertainment segment as channels fight to hold on to share and attempt to grow the market.

Discovery Networks India launched a new channel Discovery Travel and Living (DTL) last year. It also did a lot of marketing to push Animal Planet which in the past had been seen, as one industry observer succintly put it, ?an underprivileged child?. The following reoprt examines the status of the three Discovery brands.

Ratings Performance: Tam data c&s15+ five metros paints an interesting picture. If one looks at the overall English entertainment picture, then Discovery is lying in third place behind Star Movies and HBO. Data for 1 January to 30 June 2005 prime time 8-11 pm shows that Discovery has a TVR of 0.08 and a share of 13.7. However, the time spent watching it has fallen from 5.11 minutes in the September to December 2004 period to 4.46 minutes in the January to April 2005 period.

The effort being spent in marketing Animal Planet (which will be dealt with later on) has seen its viewership grow marginally to 2.96 minutes in the January to April 2005 period compared with 2.75 minutes from September - December 2004. The ratings that its top shows get have also improved.

Animal Planet?s share among the three Discovery channels has grown marginally in the prime time 8-11 pm to 37 per cent this year from 35 per cent last year. DTL, meanwhile, has eaten into Discovery?s share, which has fallen from 65 per cent to 49 per cent. However, while there will be some cannibalisation, industry observers express confidence in the third channel growing the market share for Discovery. DTL?s share stands at 15 per cent and the ratings its shows get are comparable to that of Discovery. In terms of gender skew, while the ratio is in favour of men for all the channels, Animal Planet has more women tuning in to it. It has a 55:45 men-women ratio compared to 64:36 for Discovery and 60:40 for DTL.

Something for everyone: As with any non-fiction infotainment channel, the aim is to both entertain and educate. For flagship Discovery, this is done through a variety of shows that cater to different tastes and interests. It has prime time blocks that cover history, wildlife, science and technology and mystery. This template was introduced three years ago and within this the channel has tried to add complexity to its offerings.

Planners opine that while it is hard to envisage huge viewership growth, Discovery can maintain its share as long as it keeps introducing high quality shows. One block in the late night slot i.e. 11 pm, which has been popular has revolved around crime. One show here is The New Detectives.

Junkyard Wars rated well on Discovery

Furthermore reality and lifestyle shows have played an important role in helping add variety. Celebrity Slimming for instance offered a complete dieter?s guide. Animal lovers could check out Dinosaur Planet. Those fond of travel could look at City Cabs which was all about countries and their taxis. The reality and action quotient came through shows like Zero Hour. This examined the how and why behind some of the most famous disasters of our time.

Then there are big impact shows. For instance one of the shows that springs to mind in this category is Blue Planet. This award winning series was a co-production between Discovery and BBC Worldwide and looked at the mysterious marine world. Another excellent example of variety would be Amazing Baby Videos which aired earlier this year.

The top shows on Discovery in 2004 and 2005

2004
TVR
2005
TVR
Wild Discovery
0.35
Telebrands
0.28
Moments
0.31
Moments
0.24
Raising The Kursk
0.27
Wild Discovery
0.20
Night Safari
0.20
Great Leaders
0.17
Great Hotels
0.19
World?s Best
0.17
Beach Hour
0.18
Understanding
0.14
Fastest, Tallest, Biggest
0.17
America?s Most Haunted Places
0.13
Wings
0.17
Amazing Baby Videos
0.13
Building The Ultimate
0.17
Discover India
0.12
Great Crimes And Trails
0.16
Discovery?s Biggest Show
0.11

Along with a huge variety of shows what has helped Discovery grow in recent times has been the fact that it has added blocks to cater to a certain demographic. It has Woman?s Hour on weekdays from noon to 1 pm that caters to the housewife, family time on weekdays from 7 -10 pm and also late night Discovery from 10 pm onwards which is where shows that are more edgy air. One of them was America?s Most Haunted Places.

Crime shows like The New Detectives help Discovery in the ratings

The key issue is what do media planners think about it?

Information available with Indiantelevision.com indicates that Discovery earned in the region of Rs 270 million last year. Depending on how well it is marketed and packaged to the media fraternity the revenue could grow by 8-10 per cent. Starcom?s Manish Porwal says, "Discovery and channels in the infotainment and special interest genre play an important and pivotal role in many campaigns for clients talking to learned, discerning and upmarket audiences. Industries like durable, electronics, mobiles and service brands find the channel and the genre important not just for the incremental reach at reasonable pricing but also for the context and engagement they provide to their central audience groups. Many of the programmes are contextual and relevant to the brand message as well.

"Many other industries use Discovery for different purposes - enhanced focus on the top end of their audience, increased frequency and better spot rotation. I do believe that Discovery was the first channel to get accepted as the ?do not just count the TVR? channel in the mix for most non-FMCG advertisers."

The Taj Mahal featured on an episode of Discover India

Maintaining relevance through current events: One way for any infotainment channel to generate heat is by doing specials around current happenings. For instance, earlier this year to capitalise on the interest in the final Star Wars film it aired The Science of Star Wars. It looked at how the Star Wars movies sparked off the imagination of a lot of scientists.

Last year to celebrate the Olympics it ran a contest and a a series that examined the evolution of the event. In the aftermath of the tsunami disaster, Discovery Asia teamed up with the BBC for the special Journey to the Heart of the Tsunami, which will air later this year

At this juncture it is worth pointing out that what makes shows on factual channels like Discovery so remarkable is the sheer amount of painstaking research involved. For instance the Tsunami special had the crew sending cameras deep into the abyss to witness first-hand the collision between the earth?s crustal plates.

Himalaya With Michael Palin is one of Discovery?s upcoming tent poles

The Localisation push: This is something that will grow in importance for English entertainment/infotainment channels. On its part, Discovery came out with the Discover India band a couple of years ago. Madison?s Rahul Panchal says that this is one of the tent poles on the channel. "Earlier planners used to only buy spots the round on day part (RODP) manner. Now however, the channel has been heavily promoting its tent pole products like Wild Discovery to the media fraternity. One major upcoming property here is Himalaya With Michael Palin. There is a good level of stickiness here and so for advertisers it is much better in terms of ROI if one was to take 2-3 weeks of visibility through sponsorship of a tentpole show rather than take 10 weeks of RODP spots. It has certainly become easier for us to now justify spending money on Discovery to our clients."

Discover India features documentaries around a variety of subjects that have been made by Indian producers and have helped boost the weekend slot. According to channel officials, a large number of the new viewers looking for that "additional motive" to come on to the channel have, as planned, stayed on with Discovery. Discover India?s shows such as Natural World, Monsoons, On the Horizon - have in particular done very well in the past, the channel states.

On a more global scale Discovery recently announced the second edition of Reel Race for Asia. This involves a search for eight up-and-coming documentary filmmakers from around the world to star in the docu-reality challenge. The series covers aspects of documentary filmmaking including shooting, editing, scripting, voiceovers, budgeting and logistics. The winner gets a production contract with Discovery Asia in Singapore.

Reviewing the dubbing strategy: Discovery and Animal Planet have dubbed 24-hour feeds in Hindi. This has helped them get some viewership also from SEC C, D and E. Earlier this year, Discovery decided to review the use of language in its fare dubbed in Hindi to bring it closer to levels of comprehension of the common man in India.

The table below is a look at where the three Discovery channels stand in the overall English entertainment space in the 8-11 pm band for 2005

Channel
TVR
Share in the English Entertainment genre
Star Movies
0.15
24.7
HBO
0.13
21.2
Discovery
0.08
13.7
AXN
0.06
11
NGC
0.06
8.75
Animal Planet
0.05
8.2
Star World
0.05
7.5
Zee Studio
0.03
4.1
Zee Cafe
0.02
2.7
The History Channel
0.02
2.7
Discovery Travel And Living
0.02
2.7

The mobile as a potential marketing tool: To create awareness about new launches on its channels Discovery uses the print route a lot. Last year it adopted the internet and mobile platforms to send regular e-mailers and SMS reminders.

The broadcaster is also talking to mobile providers regarding the possibility of leveraging Wap content. This will enable mobile users to download clips of Discovery shows. The broadcaster is also looking at making Discovery more interactive through on-line contests as well. Discovery in the past has also used the outdoors medium in a big way in the form of hoardings.

From an industry perspective, while tent poles are important, one must at the same time see that spots are rotated across programmes to cater to various consumer passions. At the same time there is good value in sponsoring a particular block like Discover India as it improves brand saliency. After all, when Discovery promotes its shows using outdoors, print medium the sponsors logo is present. If there is any drawback for Discovery in all this it is the fact that because it has more ads compared to arch rival NGC, it cannot promote itself to the same extent on air.

Push extended to Animal Planet

Amazing Animal Videos is one of Animal Planet?s top shows

Last year Discovery India went out of its way to push Animal Planet with road shows in Mumbai and Bangalore. Additionally, the channel?s global head Peter Weil came down to Bangalore to announce a partnership with the Bannerghatta National Park Reserve.

The Top Shows on Animal Planet in 2004 and in 2005

2004
TVR
2005
TVR
Life Is Wild On
0.24
Big Five Little Five
0.36
The Private Life Of Plan
0.19
The Planet?s Funniest Animals
0.33
The Natural World
0.19
Animal Planet Reveals
0.27
Mad Mike And Mark
0.17
Growing Up Lynx
0.26
The Jeff Corwin Experience
0.17
TV With Teeth
0.16
Animal Planet Reveals
0.12
The Crocodile Hunter
0.16
Growing Up Tiger
0.10
O?Sheas Big Adventure
0.14
Pet Star
0.10
Amazing Animal Videos
0.14
Secret World
0.10
Life Is Wild On
0.13

The on ground activities that included Animal Planet branded motorcycle cavalcades as well as the road shows, attracted high visibility and public attention. An innovative creative for outdoors was launched as well. The campaign essentials included branded trucks with giant screens running Animal Planet programmes, motor bikes with volunteers dressed in animal prints, pole kiosks and hoardings and illuminated mobile kiosks to capture attention in the evenings.

In Mumbai, the channel had model and avid animal lover Aditi Govitrikar flag off a custom designed Animal Planet vehicle. However, since these were all consumer activities, there were no sponsors nor did the channel tie up with retail outlets. Clearly, the marketing push has worked to an extent in that Animal Planet has managed to push ahead of Star World in terms of channel share in the 8-11 pm band. It is also only slightly behind NGC.

Perception stays unchanged: However, for most advertisers, even with all the marketing push, Animal Planet is still seen as an add on. That is because the channel has the disadvantage of only catering to one genre. As an observer points out, the number of people who are passionate about monkeys, sharks and the like is much less compared to those interested in music and news. It is also not sold as well to the media fraternity as Discovery is. It is estimated that Animal Planet got around Rs 60 million last year.

When a brand like Skoda or the Singapore Tourism Board puts money on Discovery and Discovery Travel and Living they will not mind expanding the budget to include Animal Planet. The fact that they are good clients of Discovery will ensure that they get excellent rates for Animal Planet even if the deals are separate.

Steve Irwin is one of Animal Planet?s recognisable faces

Group M?s Manas Mishra feels that the positioning of the channel within the industry is still somewhat vague. It is also much harder to identify shows that have some stickiness. The fact that viewership growth gained through marketing activities will be relatively limited is something that the Discovery team would do well to bear in mind while planning marketing budgets.

New Faces: In 2004 the channel launched a slew of new shows and also presented fresh anchors that it hopes will in time come to represent the face of the channel. After all, in the past Animal Planet has created several famous television personalities like Steve Irwin - the Croc Hunter and Jeff Corwin. It introduced six new faces last year, each of whom was an animal expert. For instance The Predator?s ball had "Mad" Mike Penman and Mark Tennant who are skilful, but unconventional safari guides and wildlife photographers.

Meanwhile Bruce George hosts The Snake Buster. Licensed by the Department of Conservation and Land Management, Bruce is one of the rare few in Australia who enjoys removing snakes from domestic situations.

Another strategy that Animal Planet follows is focussing on one species in great depth in a month. For instance in one month last year monkeys ruled the roost.

Get a Life

It was in October 2004 that Discovery Travel and Living launched. Tam data shows that there has been a 10.5 per cent growth in viewership of infotainment channels following its launch. The programming strategy is re-evaluated every three months. Earlier this year it launched five new shows aimed at beefing up the weekend band for the channel. The line-up also added to the channel?s mix of programming covering travel, cuisine, design and d?cor.

For Discovery, the aim behind launching the third channel was also to give viewers a break from the routine family dramas and soaps. The broadcaster is confident that Discovery Travel And Living will spearhead this new and emerging trend of contemporary alternative television in the urban Indian markets. More than the themes it is the treatment meted out to the shows that sets them apart.

In terms of channel drivers the broadcaster points out to travel, food, home and relationship shows as being able to draw in a lot of viewers. The plan going forward will be to introduce many new show formats.

The Top Shows on Discovery Travel And Living in 2005

2005
TVR
Romantic Escapes
0.37
Celebrity Slimming
0.33
City Cabs
0.31
Destinations
0.29
Beach Style
0.27
Overhaulin?
0.25
Travel Gear
0.22
American Chopper
0.21
Six Degrees
0.21
Don?t Forget Your Passport
0.19

The idea was to creatively portray the message of ?life beyond the mundane? and highlight how Discovery Travel and Living alters the current reality, urging one to get more out of life. Industry observers feel that the channel did an excellent job in getting the message out to the consumer about the new offering. The challenge now is to make sure that there is a reasonable level of stickiness.

American Chopper is one of Discovery Travel and Living?s top shows

The Localisation Drive: As is the case with Discovery, Discovery Travel and living will also have shows with an Indian flavour. Two shows have been commissioned, one of which is based on cities in India while the second series is about food. These will air later this year.

Brands present on DTL include Nokia, Samsung, LG, Visa, HSBC, Microsoft, Hyundai, Motorola, GM and De Beers. Planners point out that it is used to target influentials and trend setters. Many of them do come from SEC A+ backgrounds, but the defining criteria is not SEC but audience taste.

A first mover advantage: The channel is expected to earn in the region of Rs 80 million this year as it is still relatively new. Recently, HDFC reportedly did a Rs 2 million deal with it. Also, the TG used is SEC A, A+ 15-45. On the other hand, Animal Planet and Discovery have an older TG of 25+ SEC A and B as the notion is that older and more mature viewers watch them.

Planners feel that DTL has the clear advantage of being the first lifestyle channel in India to cater to the growing affluent set. Planners also feel that DTL has a better chance of developing stickiness for its key shows as time goes on, compared with Animal Planet.

The Distribution Scene: DTL, like the other channels in Sony?s second bouquet, has benefitted from the recent addition of Ten Sports. One Alliance president Anuj Gandhi says, "The channel today has a distribution base of 22 million homes. The demand is big in the metros. The top end hotels keep calling us to find out details about how they can get the channel. That is because it is a great fit with their clientele.

"Animal Planet reaches 24 million homes now. The Hindi feed has given it a big push in rural markets and we have been able to add four million homes this year. It has helped that Discovery has now reduced the amount of animal related content it has. The flagship channel Discovery is one of the four channel drivers of The One Alliance. The other three are Sony, Max and Ten Sports. Discovery I would say reaches 35 million homes."

Conclusion: Clearly, introducing new show formats is the way forward for the three channels in terms of growing viewership. At the same time, marketing spends, particularly for Animal Planet, will have to be prudent keeping in mind the relatively limited one genre appeal it offers.

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