Pay-TV broadcaster Discovery Communications has been especially active outside the US of late, as it lays down foundations for a new cycle of growth.
It’s a chance to play the challenger brand in markets where its share remains relatively small, resulting in a multi-billion dollar commitment to sports, forays into free TV, and ongoing experiments in delivery and content.
“When we see the markets around the world, we are still very optimistic about areas where we can tap into new audiences and new growth opportunities,” remarked JB Perrette, president of Discovery Networks International, speaking earlier this month at the broadcaster’s international media day.
The broadcaster has also made a few purchases in Asia in recent months, including a majority stake in Indian pay-TV channel FoodFood and a minority interest in Asian SVOD service RugbyPass.
For Perrette, the bigger APAC opportunity, and priority, is greater localization.
Asia-Pacific is one of the smallest regions for Discovery Communications, making up 10% of its revenue outside the US in Q1.
A greater emphasis on local rights, relationships and marketing for stronger audience bonds, part of a big push by Discovery worldwide, is overdue, now being steered by APAC leader Arthur Bastings.
“Forget about new acquisitions and new products,” Perrette said, speaking to Media Business Asia on the sidelines of Discovery's media briefing.
“Just alone in doing better with what we have, making it and positioning it as being more relevant, more local, engaging fans in a more meaningful way, potentially investing some more in local content, we think we can do better with what we’ve got.”
That’s not the end-game, Perrette noted, but a pressing opportunity.
A bigger bouquet
Big bets on general entertainment and sports, primarily in Europe, can change the conversation with operators, helping reorient Discovery by opening up new commercial possibilities with consumers, advertisers and distributors.
These deals reflect the scope of Discovery’s ambition, Perrette explained, although different strategies may play out in different parts of the world.
One underlying rationale is the need to focus on premium content.
“In that category, sports is high on the list, kids’ content is high on the list, some scripted content is high on list – we are about trying to make sure we stay in that most premium category,” Perrette said.
Globally, continued growth hinges on finding and serving engaged audiences, Perrette explained, whether it’s in traditional Discovery genres or new ones.
This approach also underpins tests in areas that may not have ubiquitous appeal, such as virtual reality.
The broadcaster unveiled its first Discovery branded VR app last August, followed by a Eurosport VR app in March.
“It may only be 20% of audience, but that may be fine, or it may be finding 20% of audience that previously wasn’t engaged,” Perrette noted during an open Q&A earlier in the day.
“For us, it’s both about giving people more of what they want, but not necessarily everyone wants the same thing. That’s okay.”
Younger audiences, for example, are more open to immersive content, he added.
“If you can find the experience and the production values that make that work, you might find more of them engaged in a more meaningful way.”