Aishwarya Ramesh

“Want to cover lesser known aspects of Ramayana”: Megha Tata

The docuseries will be dropped on Discovery+ on April 7. Discovery's MD, South Asia, on the ambitious OTT launch of India's oldest epic.

The network well known for creating educational and informational content is taking a step in a different direction. On Friday - 01 April 2022, ahead of Ram Navami, the Discovery network announced that it would be releasing a new docuseries titled ‘Legends of the Ramayana with Amish’

The series is hosted by banker turned author Amish Tripathi (who wrote books such as the Shiva trilogy and has written about the characters in the Ramayan). This series will be released on 7thApril 2022 on discovery+. The three-part series traverses 5000 kms, deep diving into ancient stories and myths around Ramayana, unexplored before.

The show will witness Tripathi travelling to key locations across India and Sri Lanka to piece the journey together whilst bringing alive history and also showcasing the rich cultures, social diversities and landscapes that are prevalent in each of the regions. Produced by award-winning production house Wide Angle Films, the series is co-directed by Sujata Kulshreshtha and Abhimanyu Tewari.

The broadcast sector and the epic tale go way back. Ramayana was televised and aired between 1987 and 1988 on DD National. It was created, written, and directed by Ramanand Sagar. In 2021, Colors TV brought it back.

On the sidelines of the show’s launch, we caught up with Megha Tata, managing director, South Asia, Discovery. She tells us that the series is not a mythology show per se, it’s about putting in research and giving credibility to one of the most popular stories of our time.

“Ramayan as a tale is in the mythology genre but Legends of Ramayana views the tale through a Discovery lens. Everyone knows the story of Ramayana, we’ve grown up with it, but we wanted to cover lesser known aspects like the route that Lord Ram might have taken to reach Lanka and things like that,” she explains.

“When we select an anchor for the show, he or she becomes the face of that property. In this case, Amish brings in relevance. Just because a person is a celebrity, doesn’t mean they’ll fit into any format of a show as an anchor. There has to be that connection. We also have actor Vidyut Jammwal host a show about martial arts because he lives and breathes martial arts,” she adds.

Discovery Network does have a range of channels like Discovery World and TLC but all these channels adhere to very specific to a certain genres. “The opportunity we have with Discovery+ is that we get to explore different genres which we hadn’t done in the past. Even with this show, we get to experiment with creating content in the entertainment space which doesn’t pertain to a specific beat.”

We asked if it was the Network’s way of trying to increase the volume of Indian content available on the Discovery+ platform and Tata agreed. “From last year, we have increased it by 5 times already. We’ve never done so much original Indian content before. We did more original content in the last year than we have in the last 25 years of Discovery being in India. If we get new audiences on the back of this show, that would be fantastic but this is also to please our existing audience.”

Tata reveals that some genres that work well for discovery+ audiences are adventure, military, crime, and investigative shows - with emphasis on the crime genre.

“We want to create more original Indian content, from India, which caters to an audience who wants to watch real life entertainment content We want to create conscious content also. On a global level, our content library contains over 10,000 hours of content which covers a large range of topics. We find that people relate more to our content when we dub it. Dubbing has been a big strategy for us for so many years. Not just in India, globally, Discovery content is aired in different markets dubbed in local languages.”

Discovery+ is primarily a SVOD platform. It has an AVOD play too but its not a large part of it. For the network, a chunk of its big advertising business is still on television.

When asked about the impact of the pandemic, she says “Our business did get impacted at the time and we all did have our share of revenue impact, but it's coming back now. Last year was pretty good and this year has started pretty well too. Our advertising and revenue is driven through television and we continue to focus on that.

”Discovery+ is a subscription driven business and it has performed well overnight. One of the reasons for us is also the pricing. We offered value for money so it was probably easier for a lot of families to make that decision since the kind of content we were offering at that price was kid friendly.

In the OTT world, product and pricing are an important factor for the platform’s success. “Our product is a differentiated offering. There was a gap for a platform like this in the OTT market and we had the capability to bring that kind of content to audiences thanks to our existing library of content. However, we’re entering at a late stage.

There are already many players in the OTT market. Thats where we feel the variety of content we bring to the table and the depth of content makes a difference. We had a sweet spot when it comes to pricing because consumers have a sense that with Discovery content there is credibility, that it’s family friendly and children can watch it without worrying their parents,” she signs off.

Paritosh Joshi, Principal, Provocateur Advisory, points out that there is no fatigue as such when it comes to the epics because this is a topic that interests everyone,

"When it comes to Ramayan, there is greater suspension of disbelief, This might be the reason for the success of the epic in these journals." He says. "People want to watch stories of heroes and villains and its a good distraction from our daily lives. There will not be any fatigue as such and there will be viewership for this show," he says.

He likens the stories told through epics in India to superhero movies which are becoming increasingly popular world over. "We are born to relate to these stories in whatever form and shape. It doesn't matter what culture you grew up in. Whether you listened to Aesop's Fables or 1001 Arabian nights - these stories all hold a special place in our hearts."

Keerat Grewal, Partner, Ormax Media states that mythology is an evergreen genre in the Indian context. "Most mythological shows have performed well on GECs, including the 1987 show Ramayan's re-run on DD during the COVID lockdown, as well as the re-run of Star Plus' 2013 series Mahabharat. These and other linear TV shows on well-known popular deities, whose stories have been oft-told, have also performed well.

“Want to cover lesser known aspects of Ramayana”: Megha Tata

She also gives the example of Star Bharat's RadhaKrishn or Sony's Vighnaharta Ganesh. The same story has continued on OTT too. "As per Ormax Media's OTT Viewership Estimates, in 2021 Disney+Hotstar's animation series 'The Legend of Hanuman' was the second most-watched streaming show, at an estimated viewership of 23.2 Mn. The genre clearly holds mass appeal in India. However, it's the visual presentation via quality graphics or animation, alongwith a unique approach to the otherwise well-known story that will determine the success of the show," she concludes.

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