Anirban Roy Choudhury
Interviews

How Discovery's Megha Tata wants to crack a "competitive and saturated market" like Tamil Nadu

Global factual entertainment giant, Discovery has rebranded its regional offering D-Tamil, the managing director - South Asia says, "previous logo lacked drama and entertainment".

Discovery Communications, a market leader in the factual entertainment space has announced a brand refresh of its real-life entertainment channel D-Tamil. The channel has redesigned its logo to appeal to the local audience in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu is a critical market in the Indian television landscape. It is so local that if a large network did not have a Tamil offering, however robust it is, it would not find takers. The distributors would turn the broadcaster down, all the more in the New Tariff Order (NTO) regime. It is almost that the Tamil channels carry the entire network in that vast market. That is where D-Tamil becomes critical for an International broadcaster like the Discovery which stands tall on the back of international factial entertainment content.

Megha Tata, managing director - South Asia, Discovery Communications India, has focussed on localisation from the time she joined the company. Bear Grylls's episode of 'Man VS Wild' with Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an example of that. With D-Tamil, she wants to go one step further.

The channel is launching shows featuring local celebrities and dishing out family-friendly content. 'Acham Yenbathu Madamaiyada', an adventure reality series, and 'Suvai', a competitive light-hearted cooking show have been announced and Tata says there are more in the pipeline.

With the brand refresh that went live on 'Tamil New Year' (April 14), Megha Tata, in an interview with afaqs! speaks about D-Tamil and how she intends to drive revenue.

Edited excerpts:

Why did you think it was essential for D-Tamil to undergo a rebranding exercise?

When the D-Tamil logo was created it did what it had to do. But, we felt that it was about time we created a refresh for the brand because the previous logo lacked drama and entertainment. The packaging and promotion were thought through with that as the backdrop. Colours like red and gold resonate well in the Tamil Nadu market - that's why we went ahead with the refresh.

D-Tamil's new logo
D-Tamil's new logo

You have been working towards changing the content for quite a while...

D-Tamil has been around for a while, but in September 2019, we decided to focus on the brand itself. We started with localising and creating content in a way that will appeal to the local audiences. We also felt that a lot of duplicacy was happening with what D-Tamil was offering. After we changed the content strategy, we managed to create a very distinctive offering for D-Tamil. The Discovery, TLC and Animal Planet content that was airing on D-Tamil got removed and what was available on D-Tamil was not there on any other Discovery channels.

Who watches D-Tamil and is that audience different from flagship Discovery-viewers?

Yes, it is. That is why we felt there is market potential. Tamil Nadu is a very competitive market and in the GEC space, we saw an opportunity to provide something that is distinctive. Staying true to what Discovery stands for, we started creating local content and some cooking shows resonated well with the viewers on the channel immediately. Then we did shows with local celebrities, we did travel adventure shows. While these were all Discovery-type shows, we made them local. We are launching a food competition show where 12 couples will be competing, it would be themed around local food culture.

"Tamil Nadu is a tough, competitive and saturated market in many ways,"
Megha Tata

So, is it that the channel is viewed by people in tier-II and tier -III pockets within Tamil Nadu? Where do they come from?

It is more metro-centric. Men, women and kids, all tune in to watch the content especially the cooking shows. Because of the kids viewership, there is a kids baking show on the channel.

You have language feeds, but do you plan to segment further by launching more regional channels of Discovery like D-Tamil?

Our languaging strategy has been to dub out content from all our channels. Discovery has seven languages, Animal Planet has three languages, Discovery Kids has six languages (audio feed)... dubbing has been the localising strategy. D-Tamil is an experiment that has worked well for us and so we are backing it with new show launches. Rest, we will continue with dubbed content.

Does D-Tamil also play a critical role in Discovery's distribution in a big market like Tamil Nadu?

D-Tamil is one of our success stories when it comes to reach. There was a 30 per cent growth and the GRP that's up by 58 per cent. Our partners see the value in our offering. Technically, we do not have anyone directly competing with us.

Also Read: Megha Tata appointed as Discovery's Managing Director of South Asia

When you speak about competition, are you not competing with the general entertainment channels for time?

Yes, we are competing with the GECs in a way, but that is an entirely different universe where the content offering, costs and investments are very different. So, we are not a General Entertainment Channel. It is like how Discovery is in the larger television ecosystem, we have a very differentiated offering in the real-life entertainment space.

"We have added 10-12 brands that were never advertising in the genre,"
Megha Tata

Does the real-life content you create have archival value?

Few of the content pieces do, but not all. Datedness comes in with the content. However, we come with a library of 300,000 hours of content globally. We can look at that content to curate for D-Tamil specifically.

What's about monetisation, who are the advertisers? Are they mostly local brands?

There is a local advertising proposition and we saw that grow pretty well when we revised our content strategy. We are hoping that with this brand refresh, we will be able to grow our number of clients further.

Recently, we have added 10-12 brands that were never advertising in the genre. Like Kellogs, HUL, Citroën, Asian Paints, Kia Motors... In fact, for the rebranding, we have Byjus, Colgate, these are all new brands. The retail advertisers are an opportunity we could not optimise with our national offering and D-Tamil brings that opportunity. From less than 10 per cent in 2019, the share of retail advertisers is up to 30 per cent on D-Tamil.

Also Read: "We'll bring back bigger, better, bolder content"

While you are investing in original content, considering the market dynamics, is it economically viable?

Tamil Nadu is a tough, competitive and saturated market in many ways. Obviously, the big players are in GEC and news and that is where most of the monies is. We are not in that zone. So, it has to be an economical decision and we cannot invest without counting the return. That is why we are taking one step at a time. I am hopeful that with the shows we are launching and the ones in the pipeline, we will be able to drive our revenues.