We will not focus exclusively on infotainment in India: Arthur Bastings

Arthur Bastings

Franchise. Media major Discovery Communications acquired a majority stake in celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s company Turmeric Vision on Thursday, adding a food channel to its portfolio of travel, lifestyle, infotainment and kids entertainment. In a conversation with Viveat Susan Pinto,Arthur Bastings, president and managing director, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, highlights his firm’s priorities in the Indian market and how it is not averse to making investments in general entertainment and sports. Edited Excerpts:

What was the rationale for the acquisition of a majority stake in Turmeric Vision? Are you open to more acquisitions in India.

We are taking a flexible view of where we want our overall portfolio to be. This partnership with Sanjeev is a natural extension of what we do. I don’t look at networks from the point of view of genres, but from the point of view of communities and audience franchises. Sanjeev’s audience franchise revolves around Hindi-speaking women who are passionate about food and life. Sanjeev speaks about India’s three passions, which includes Bollywood, cricket and food. And the audience tuning into his channel taps into all these passions. Now that we are on board we will continue to invest in the content that Sanjeev creates and tap into those passions. At a broader level, we will also invest in sales, marketing and distribution of the channel, since it is now part of the Discovery network. To answer the second part of your question, yes, we want to grow organically as well as inorganically. And we will look at more acquisitions in India.

When do you propose to rebrand Food Food (Sanjeev Kapoor’s food channel) now that it is part of the Discovery network?

There are some voices that say that we should make the channel a part of TLC (Discovery’s travel and lifestyle channel). But my view is that this channel is very different from TLC, which does have food, but the audience franchise is different. We are not one of those that has a uniform branding strategy across the world. We have international as well as local brands in various markets and we try and retain the heritage of the local brands we have. In short, there is no immediate plan to rebrand Food Food.

Discovery has made big investment beyond the infotainment domain that it is traditionally known for. For instance, you are big in sports in Europe and kids entertainment in Latin America. What is the plan for India?

India is a top-priority market for us. It is an investment destination. I see enormous potential in terms of growth in the existing products we have. The other bit is digital, given that India is a young market with a high millennial population. We want to engage in the digital opportunity here in a big way. As far as inorganic is concerned, we are open to where opportunities are. But they need to be the right ones and ones that we can execute well. Infotainment, however, is not something we will be exclusively focusing our attention on in India. We will broaden our horizons and look at areas such as general entertainment, sports, regional entertainment etc. I expect to be doing more things in India from an inorganic point of view, going forward.

When will a new India head come on board for Discovery? You haven’t had one since Rahul Johri stepped down a few months ago.

Since India is an important market for us, the search is taking that much longer. And I am ready to wait for a good candidate. There is a good team in place here. I have just put a new corporate development team to turbo-charge operations here and I am always there to monitor and oversee operations. So I am in no haste to appoint an India head just yet.

Your sense of the domestic media landscape. How will it evolve in the future?

I see a multi-platform audience franchise emerging that will watch TV, video-on-demand, apps and social media. The nature and matrix of engagement is going to change dramatically. The way we are positioned currently, I am not quite sure whether we are there in terms of tapping into this multi-platform audience franchise. There is still work to be done to get there.

Source : Business Standard

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