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Discovery enters sports broadcasting in India with launch of DSPORT

MUMBAI: Infotainment broadcaster Discovery Communications has entered the sports broadcasting business in India in order to expand its reach in one of the fastest-growing economies of the world.

Pursuing an aggressive expansion strategy, the company on Monday launched a sports channel in India called DSPORT.

Sports broadcasting veteran RC Venkateish, who was ESPN Star Sports MD and DTH service provider Dish TV India CEO, will be working closely with DSPORT as a consultant, especially in areas related to content acquisition for the channel. DSPORT comes under the Real World cluster of Discovery.

Armed with 4,000 hours of live sporting content annually, the new channel will seek to find space in India’s duopoly sports broadcasting market controlled by Star India and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), which acquired TEN Sports from Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) in September 2016.

Discovery will offer international sports properties including football, horse racing, golf, rugby, motorsports and cycling.

Karan-Bajaj-DSPORT-inside

Cricket, the pillar of the two big broadcasting networks in India, will not be in the menu of DSPORT for now. But the company is in talks with one of the cricket boards, and an announcement is expected to be made in the coming weeks, revealed Karan Bajaj, the new head of Discovery in India.

Though he did not name the board, a source said Discovery is almost on the verge of bagging the New Zealand Cricket Board broadcast rights. No broadcaster in India has the rights at this stage. The timing of the matches, played in the early morning, limits the rights value.

Discovery may take a shot at the media rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL). “The focus is on getting properties at the right valuation including the IPL,” said Bajaj.

The soccer rights residing with DSPORT are Brazilian League, Chinese Super League, Portuguese League and Major League Soccer (USA). The channel has exclusive rights to telecast daily live racing from the UK and Irish tracks totalling over 7,000 races a year. In golf, it has rights to telecast British Open (The Open Championship), US Open, PGA Championship and LPGA. In motorsports, it will air NASCAR, FIA World Rallycross Championship while in rugby it will show 6 Nations Rugby. In cycling, the channel has acquired Tour de France (a property of Eurosport).

“There are white spaces like horse racing. We will be tapping into a passionate community of fans in India whose needs are under-served. They spread across incomes and demographics. We are looking to go beyond cricket to serve their needs with this new channel,” Bajaj said.

Bajaj pointed out that horseracing is the second most gated sport in the country after cricket, and no sports broadcaster has consistently aired it so far. Golf, he noted, has 65 million unique viewers. “We will not just pick anything up. It has to be something that passionate sports fans are interested in and which can cause disruption,” he said.

RC-VenkateishDSPORT will have more hours of live content daily than any of the other sports broadcasters. “We will have 4,000 hours of live programming in a year. This is two-three times of any other channel,” said Bajaj, who is designated senior vice president and general manager of Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific.

The high volume of live content will differentiate DSPORT from the others. “Discovery has been entertaining Indian audiences for over two decades with a well-entrenched portfolio of unique content channels. We are excited to add yet another flagship brand to our growing offering with the launch of DSPORT, which is set to redefine sports entertainment. Combining India’s passion for sports with our global expertise in sports production, DSPORT will offer a daily dose of 10+ hours of live content for viewers across the country,” he said.

The price of the standard definition version of DSPORT is fixed at Rs 12.6 on reference interconnect offer (RIO), while the high-definition version will cost around Rs 32.

Discovery claims the channel has launched to a reach of 35 million homes. The aim is to have a scale of 80–90 million homes. Currently, it is available across several cable TV networks including Hathway Cable & Datacom.

“We are being carried on the base pack of cable TV networks. We are in talks with DTH operators for carriage of the new channel,” said Bajaj.

At launch, DSPORT will be a part of the sports tier via a subscription model on both DTH and cable in HD as well as SD.

The launch marks the first time in over 10 years that a media company has entered the sports broadcasting arena.

Discovery already has a focus on sports abroad through Eurosport, a sports destination in Europe. The launch of DSPORT in India perfectly complements this wider strategy to provide fans with more live action across a plethora of sporting genres. The channel has a clear ambition to redefine sports engagement by giving viewers access to unmatched live sporting action from around the world, Discovery claims.

Discovery operates 11 channels in India. These include Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Discovery HD World, Discovery Science, Discovery Turbo and Discovery Kids.

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