Tuesday, July 30, 2019

HGTV DStv channel launch Day 2: Press conference - Why Discovery Inc. launched it so quickly in South Africa after acquiring Scripps and Africa's growing importance as a pay-TV market among global content suppliers.

In a global pay-TV market that often moves with tectonic speed, TVwithThinus asked Discovery Inc. how it was possible and why it decided to roll out HGTV internationally and in South Africa so quickly after buying Scripps, and asked MultiChoice whether adding international channels quicker from global content suppliers signifies a growing importance on the South African and African region as a pay-TV market.

MultiChoice just added Discovery Inc.'s HGTV (DStv 177) with the TV channel's addition that comes literally weeks after being made available in Germany; and HGTV having launched in Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and a few other Southeast Asia countries just a few months ago.

HGTV will soon be launching in the United Kingdom, with South Africa that got it before Britain.

Discovery Inc.'s held a HGTV press conference at the Table Bay hotel in Cape Town on the afternoon of Day 2 of the 3-day press tour for the channel's launch in South Africa, and TVwithThinus asked Discovery Inc. about the strategy behind HGTV's relative quick roll-out and expansion globally and why it's being done, and MultiChoice about how South Africa and Africa is now being perceived as a pay-TV region.

Amanda Turnbull, vice president and general manager at Discovery Inc. for the Africa and Middle East region, was one of the TV executive panellists at the HGTV press conference.

"In terms of the internationalisation, when Discovery Inc. and Scripps came together, there were some fantastic 'complementalities' if that's even a word," explained Amanda Turnbull.

"What Kathleen Finch (now Discovery Inc.'s chief lifestyle brands officer) and her team brought to us in the United States was absolute dominance of women in pay-TV every night of the week. Don't forget that we're a big global company, so what happens in America is important."

"So what the Scripps deal brought to us was huge scale and ownership of ratings in the evenings in key demographics. What it did for us internationally was that the Scripps team hadn't been at that point been as active as we had been internationalising."

"We do pride ourselves on being first and fastest since we've been internationalising the Discovery brands for the last 30 years. What that meant was there were huge opportunities because we are operating in 220 countries, so we have teams in the majority of places who know the market and know what's expected."

"So the idea is for us to internationalise the legacy Scripps TV channels as quickly as possible because we're on the ground and we can do that and we have the relationship. So that's what you're seeing now," said Amanda Turnbull.

"Even though it feels quick to you, it doesn't necessarily feel so quick to us but that's why I'm so proud. We have a very strong relationship with MultiChoice - it goes back to 1995, in 1997 we launched Discovery Channel in this market."

"Lee Hobbs (Discovery Inc.'s senior vice president for pay-TV and global brands for the EMEA region) and I have been working with Aletta Alberts (MultiChoice's head of content strategy) since 2007, so we go back a long way."

"And a lot of my fellow country managers across EMEA are really having helpful and useful conversations with their distributors around these fantastic brands, so it rounds out our portfolio really nicely in that real-life space."

"It adds more value to a distributor because there are these verticals that we can really serve now even more passionately. And you know, we didn't have food (Food Network) before, we didn't have HGTV before, we didn't have Travel before but it does complement what we had beautifully now."

"When you're in this real-life space this idea that you can be credible, authentic, expert in these verticals is really important. So it was a brilliant buy for us. To be honest, we learnt. When we acquired Eurosport we learnt what happens, when you acquire you have to be quick because we're publicly traded so there is an aspiration and there is an expectation from Wall Street."

"So we wanted to do it quickly and we wanted to move the brands forward," said Amanda Turnbull.

Aletta Alberts, MultiChoice's head of content strategy, said "for most international suppliers Africa is a very, very important territory because we are still one of the few territories where you see the growth in pay-TV that we see".

"Although you read in the newspapers that DStv Premium is declining it's actually not declining to the rate that we thought. And nowhere in the world does a pay-TV operator grow by almost a million subscribers every year, and we're still doing those numbers."

"Even if we don't do a million and we do 800 000 it's still more than other global territories and it's not going to change overnight. Yes, the over-the-top (OTT) competitors are out there, but it's all additive. It's not this-or-that."

"As long as broadband is expensive and not everywhere, we've got a good five to 10 years before you'll see that real fast change happening in other territories."

"We see on average five TV channels a week; people who pitch to us international channels that people are making. I mean, it's difficult for me to say but you can ask my colleagues, I'll just tell you what suppliers tell us. They say South Africans are incredibly spoilt. We probably have the best of the best that is out there."

"There are maybe one or two things that we don't have but there isn't a lot out there. HGTV was one of them and there's maybe one or two others - because then you start running into repeats," explained Aletta Alberts.

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