We have put money aside to invest in India: Simon Robinson

Excerpts from the recently held session at CII Big Picture summit with Simon Robinson, President APAC & Chief Transformation Officer, Discovery Inc for the session Scaling Up and Standing Out: Differentiation, Collaboration and Growth across APAC.

Who’s going to be the Indian Bear Grylls? Says Simon Robinson

In India, the following Bear Grylls has is obviously incredible. He’s a warrior and I think it fits nicely with the Indian culture. I remember getting the call from the team in India saying there was an opportunity to do something with the Prime Minister; and that we’ve got to move really quickly! That’s one of the joys about working at Discovery - We are very agile, and we make decisions quickly. Within 24 hours, we made a commitment to make the show. Moreover, it had to be kept very quiet for a long period of time. But, clearly it struck a chord pairing Bear, who’s already very popular in India with true leaders, characters and personalities from India. The two follow ups were easy decisions to make and two people paired with Bear were obvious candidates. We are currently working on plans to bring more of that to the screens in 2021. It’s a great show for us and I couldn’t be happier with it. Record audiences and definitely something we would be repeating.

My next challenge to the team In India now is to find out who’s going to be the Indian Bear Grylls! It is great that Bear Grylls is such a hero here, but we need a home-grown star to front this franchise, to take us Into the Wild!

India is a key market for discovery+:  Simon Robinson

We launched discovery+ in India earlier for a variety of reasons. India is obviously a mature and quite sophisticated streaming market already. There are as many products in India alone as there probably are around the rest of the world including some really strong local players. It was important for us to get into the market and learn a bit about the market to create a product that features functionalities specific to India and some other parts of Asia. These functionalities were not going to be developed for the products that are launched in US or Europe. Therefore, again another reason for us to pioneers in India. There were some deliberate reasons behind us going earlier in India knowing that we had a bigger strategy globally and the content is the biggest driver of consumption on streaming platforms.

You have to have great content and we did not want to rush out and put everything out on the India product before we had launched globally. Now we have a massive slate of new exclusive original content coming to both local and international markets and I think that’s really going to help supersize our offerings.

Discovery’s journey in India has been fantastic; Invigorated about the next stage of the journey: Simon Robinson

In Europe, we have had streaming products in the market for some time. However, think we are now ideally pleased to really join the streaming world and we made an announcement a couple of weeks ago in New York about the global launch of discovery+. India, obviously, was Plan A in that area: The big journey of Discovery has always been fantastic for us so far where we are excited and invigorated about the next stage of the journey. When we launched originally, we were a pioneer in factual entertainment in cable TV. We were the first broadcast in HD anywhere in the world.

Our ability to create content at a time when studios are shut down has been a success factor for Discovery during the pandemic: Simon Robinson

There are people are spending more time at home they are consuming content on linear TV, on tablets, on streaming services. One of the things that has been a success for us is our ability to create content during a time when a lot of studios are shut down and cannot produce content. The nature of some of the genres we work in and some of the places that we work in, has allowed us to actually produce as many hours of new and original content during this period of global lockdown than we would during a normal time and that’s paid off for us in terms of our linear viewing. Our audiences are at a high level and been for many years. We have seen a resurgence of the consumption of our content on the traditional TV platform.

Localization and customizing content key for the Indian market: Simon Robinson

There are regional markets in India that are as big as a European country so we think about approaching those markets differently. It’s pretty content specific and there’s obviously the localization in terms of the language.  However, in India, most of the content will be Indian centric but we are looking at specific areas from both a linear and a digital perspective that we think we can target to help grow our business and that will be content led primarily so we got to go find out what kind of content specifically resonates with different markets.

I think there are some basic functionalities that are important in different markets. One is bandwidth consumption, how hungry is the app in its consumption of peoples data plans, we have to be conscious of that and part of our development in India was making sure we had that optimized correctly. We have invested a lot in and around short form content. This is not user generated content but really looking at our library and creating 4 minutes of bite sized episodes that we can make available to get people entertained and interested  and informed about our content.  And that’s been relatively successful as well. It will be one of the strategies we plan to pursue in India and some other parts of South East Asia.

We are a purposeful company and intentional about what we do: Simon Robinson

We have evolved as a company over the years obviously, but our core DNA is the natural history world. These magnificent shows take 2 or 3 years to make in the wild and that will always be part of who we are as a company. And you can expect us to make more of those. In fact, one of the originals coming up to the discovery+ platform in the US will be putting Sir David Attenborough back on our screens with a brand new show, which I am super excited about and cannot wait to see. Expanding beyond that, we are a purposeful company and intentional about what we do. It is core to who we are. Sometimes our purpose leads into programming; sometimes it is just about who we are as a company. You can expect to see more natural history content and yes, Discovery will continue to be a purposeful company and make documentaries of all sorts of current topics that we believe are relevant to our audiences.

We have put money aside to invest in India and you can expect us to make more shows in the market: Simon Robinson

Talking about Asia specifically, it is no secret why there is a speeding frenzy across the market for all the global media companies. It is all about making great content people want to watch and then the other side of product is by having great technology that allows people to really engage with the show seamlessly, be served up more of what they like to watch and do that in partnership with the platforms what they are used to using already. Discovery makes content all over the world, that travels all over the world and increasingly has a multi directional flow. We have made shoes in India, China, and Australia. So I expect us to continue to do that - making great content in each of our markets understanding that it is also content that has core Discovery DNA that would travel around the world. We are putting more money to work, making more shows on a market to market basis. In India, we are in the middle of budget negotiations now. We have put money put aside to invest in India and you can expect us to make more shows in the market. There is some great talent in the marketplace. Some incredible storytellers and some wonderful environments, great places that we could do shows and franchises in that could do incredibly well.


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