JB Perrette, international president of nonfiction broadcaster Discovery Communications, has highlighted Asia-Pacific as a region where the company’s localization efforts need to pick up the pace.
Non-US content makes up more than 50% of programming on Discovery’s international networks overall – a proportion that should continue to grow, as part of global CEO David Zaslav’s mission to build a global content engine that powers Discovery worldwide.
Despite some notable local production activity in Australia and India however, Asia-Pacific is lagging behind, while on-ground demand for more differentiated content continues to grow.
“We’d like to do a lot more,” Perrette said in his keynote interview at this year’s APOS. “Frankly, we have not done nearly as much as we should have. We are now making a big push to try and do more.”
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more Sports, localization And m&a
Discovery Networks International president JB Perrette also spoke to Media Business Asia about his expectations for the region for an exclusive video interview on the sidelines of APOS.
“We think we’re still undersized in Asia – we have enormous aspirations for what we want to do in this part of the world,” he declared.
“Our size and yet the opportunity that still exists is probably more present in Asia than any other region.”
In the video highlights below, Perrette lays out Discovery's contours of growth, in traditional and new product lines, and how this new ambition will reshape margins and revenue.
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International revenue contributes more than half of Discovery’s revenues, and the company is looking for ways it can export non-US content as well as US shows to different countries around the world.
Perrette sees plenty of potential within traditional pay-TV in India and Southeast Asia for Discovery’s core factual and lifestyle portfolio, as well as in newer ventures like sports.
At the same time, he is also open to betting on alternative revenue streams such as free-to-air or OTT, if market conditions are right, to support a longer-term diversification for the company that has already started in Europe.
“Part of this is trying to turbocharge our ambition in this part of the world,” Perrette told APOS attendees.
“It’s a relatively small part of our overall company today. In three to five years, it should be much bigger.”
Henry Martinez, Discovery’s president of Latin America, is overseeing Asia-Pacific for the time being during a regional leadership transition, although a new APAC head should be in place to steer growth initiatives by the end of the year.
At the same time, Discovery to decentralizing operations in Southeast Asia, formerly run out of Singapore, adding new offices in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand to monitor and move on market-specific growth opportunities.
Perrette is also keen to build on existing momentum in India, where Discovery has already assembled a sizable and profitable channel suite across five different languages on the back of rising investment in local content.
This tends to overshadow the possibility of a big bet to double down on the market, echoing bold moves in Europe, but Perrette won’t rule anything out.
“The general entertainment space is crowded; a lot of people have tried and lost a lot of money, that’s less appealing to us,” he said.
“Sports is always interesting to us but those are big ticket ventures in that market,” he added. “We will continue to drive it through organic growth primarily and then selectively, if acquisitions come around or if other opportunities to partner in that market come around.”
A Makeover For Eurosport
Sports represents a major new flank for Discovery, after the non-fiction broadcaster took control of Eurosport nine months ago.
Now the company wants to broaden Eurosport’s appeal with select top-tier properties – recently securing rights in Singapore for the next three seasons of Uefa Champions League football for example – while adding more localized and niche events to a core portfolio that includes cycling, tennis and skiing.
“We have stepped up our investment, and will continue to step up our investment,” Perrette said.
“This will be more of a marathon, this is not something that will happen in 30 days, but we’ve started in this part of the world where the channel has been managed, both in Asia and in Europe, as a pan-regional service,” he added.
“As everybody knows, there’s really no such thing as a pan-regional sports fan.”
The company is committed to invest, despite a strong US dollar, Perrette stressed, noting that the international operations are on course for their best year ever, even though currency swings are undermining those gains.
“We’re less concerned about that, because hopefully that doesn’t take our foot of the gas,” he said.
“What we’re more focused on is the changing ways consumers want to access content. In this part of the world, we are exclusively a pay-TV service, but there may be opportunities in different markets, with existing partners or new partners, to find ways to find new growth, potentially in free-to-air or OTT as it may make sense.”