If you want to watch Bear Grylls with Rajinikanth in 'Into The Wild' before the episode airs on Discovery Channel, all you need to do is just download Discovery Plus and subscribe to its premium service by paying Rs 299. A giant in the factual entertainment space, Discovery Communications India has now launched its video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform, Discovery Plus. The platform will follow a freemium business model. There will be some free streaming content, and the rest will be put behind a paywall.
"Discovery Network reaches out to 165 million viewers, excluding kids, out of which, about 25 million watch Discovery Channel. They consume around 23 hours of content a month and that is the audience we feel will download and subscribe to Discovery Plus," says Megha Tata, managing director- South Asia, Discovery.
The loyal Discovery viewers are actively watching similar content on digital mediums and that is what led Tata and her team to launch Discovery Plus. However, there are already around 40 domestic and international VOD platforms available in India. How many will one download and subscribe to? "If you draw a Venn diagram, on one side, you will have a clutter of OTT platforms that are into the scripted content space, while on the non-scripted side, you won't find a single proposition. That is the need gap we intend to fill with Discovery Plus," asserts Tata.
Discovery Plus was available as a microsite embedded within the news aggregator DailyHunt. As an independent app, it will now offer a wide range of content that is created and owned by the Discovery Group. "In the OTT space today, you have one platform trying to outdo the other. The content cost is getting higher and higher… We are using the content that we already have as a network. We will aggregate them in a manner that suits our audience in India, and have a multilingual feed, which, I believe, will be key," says Tata.
Tata claims Discovery Plus to be a unique proposition, offering unscripted content. However, the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime already have a library of unscripted content, and are reportedly commissioning more. Apart from that, there is DocuBay, a subscription-based VOD platform from the stable of IN10 Media, which streams documentaries. Globally, there is Curiosity Stream, founded by the founder and former chairman of Discovery Inc., which competes in factual entertainment, or unscripted space. "We have over 300,000 hours of content and that’s Discovery Plus’ competitive advantage," says Tata.
The OTT service intends to offer thousands of hours of exclusive content across 40-plus genres, including Science, Adventure, Food and Lifestyle, in eight Indian languages, including Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali and Marathi. Discovery Plus will offer its premium subscribers a large selection of "never-seen-before" Premium Discovery titles, documentaries, India originals, and exclusive acquisitions. On the other hand, the free users of the app will have access to the Discovery library. Additionally, ‘Shorts', a feature curated for the digital platform, will stream hundreds of free short-form videos.
Discovery will monetise the content through both advertising and subscriptions, informs Issac John, business head – digital (South Asia), Discovery. He adds, "People pay for premium content that is safe and not available elsewhere. Now when it comes to advertising, today, if an FMCG wants to buy content or ad spots in fiction, there are 150 such options available. But if you want to target communities passionate about food or travel or auto or lifestyle, we have emerged as a very strong alternative proposition in the world of chaos, fiction, make-beliefs."
About the interface of Discovery Plus, John says that they have drawn a lot of inspiration from the way viewers consume content on Facebook and YouTube, the mediums that are pioneering short-form content. The idea, he says, is to present the platform in a manner that the users are accustomed to.
As the digital platform’s presence grows in India, will it take away the core user base of linear television channel? "Why would it?," counters Tata. "There are broadcasters already running their OTT platforms in India, I don't think their television viewership has got hit due to that...," she concludes.