True Crime to Mythology: Inside Warner Bros Discovery's Content Strategy with Sai Abishek

In an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle, Sai Abishek, Head of Factual and Lifestyle Cluster, South Asia at Warner Bros. Discovery, talks about the diverse content slate shaping the landscape of non-fiction entertainment. From gripping true crime documentaries to immersive explorations of history and mythology, Warner Bros. Discovery's approach to storytelling keeps the focus on authenticity and engagement. Join us as we uncover the brand positioning, content plan for 2024, audience preferences, and the challenges facing the ever-evolving OTT space.

What does your content slate look like right now?

Our upcoming content slate will boast a diverse array of original programming across multiple genres. Our viewers will be able to expect everything under the sun, from larger than life historical & true crime documentaries and thrilling adventures to gripping survival tales, wildlife, and thought-provoking explorations of science. And in the lifestyle category, new premieres across Food, Baking, Home, Dating & Relationships, we will offer something for everyone.

  1. What's your brand positioning in the OTT space?

discovery+ is the go-to platform for real-life entertainment and documentaries. Our extensive library of non-fiction programming offers a unique blend of educational and engaging shows across various genres. With a focus on discovery, exploration, and storytelling, discovery+ caters to audiences seeking compelling narratives and immersive experiences that delve into worlds never seen before. Through our curated selection of content and partnerships with top creators and production companies, we aim to differentiate ourselves as a premier destination for those who crave authentic, thought-provoking factual entertainment.

  1. What is the reason behind the demand for history and mythology content among Indian audiences in the recent times?

The demand for history and mythology content among Indian audiences is on the rise. While traditional cinema focused on well-known narratives, there's now a growing interest in uncovering lesser-known stories. For instance, our shows like "Legends of Ramayana" and "Secrets of the Buddha Relics" have gained significant traction. People are eager to explore their cultural heritage, origins, and the individuals who shaped their history. This growing trend reflects a desire to better understand the present and anticipate the future, leading to an explosion of diverse narratives across various formats.

  1. What's the content plan for 2024?

We have an exciting lineup featuring the best of global documentaries and series across pivotal factual and lifestyle genres, complemented by compelling original content from India. Among our offerings are recently released US titles like "America's Backyard Gold," "Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV," and "Lethally Blonde," which have performed really well in India. In fact, we have a new bonus episode of "Quiet on Set" launching soon for our viewers.

Looking ahead, our viewers can also anticipate the return of core IPs in 2024, including "Naked and Afraid," "Expedition Unknown," "Gold Rush," and "Ghost Adventures," alongside the highly anticipated new season of "Naked and Afraid XL," premiering on May 10th.Moreover, in India, with both returning favorites and fresh IPs in the pipeline, 2024 promises to deliver an extraordinary array of entertainment for our viewers.

  1. What type of non-fiction content is drawing more eyeballs on your platform?

True crime content is one of the top draws on our platform, constituting at least 20-25% of our content slate. Alongside true crime, topical docs, history and mythology, and survival-adventure are also highly popular genres. Titles such as "Love Kills," "Money Mafia," and "My Daughter Joined a Cult" have garnered significant attention in the true crime category. In the history and mythology genre, our platform boasts hit IPs like "History Hunter," "Secrets of Sinauli," "Secrets of The Buddha Relics," and "The Legends of Ramayana with Amish." These captivating narratives continue to engage and resonate with our audience, making them among the most sought-after content on our platform.

  1. If you can mention 3 points that sets you apart from the competition. What would they be?

We cater to a highly diverse audience, offering an extensive range of genres that set us apart in the industry. With a legacy spanning over three decades exclusively in non-fiction programming,

we've established ourselves as pioneers in this field, gaining invaluable expertise and know-how along the way. Our platform features meticulously curated content sourced from around the world granting viewers in India access to a rich variety of genres and more. From Investigation Discovery to Animal Planet, TLC to Science, and Discovery Kids to Eurosport India, our platform boasts an impressive lineup and depth of library and talent like no one else in the category. Furthermore, our partnerships with BBC, A&E and many more ensure that viewers can enjoy a comprehensive array of content all in one place. As the premier destination for non-fiction in India, we're committed to further growth and expansion in the years ahead.

  1. Can non-fiction actually compete with entertainment?

We are not looking to compete with entertainment. We have never regarded them as competition. Factual entertainment offers tangible value that transforms people’s lives and changes their perceptions about the world, which pure entertainment alone will never be able to promise. In today's era of diverse content consumption, non-fiction content has garnered significant attention in the OTT space. Viewers now appreciate documentary and non-fiction productions made with the same level of sophistication as fiction, featuring improved cinematography, celebrity involvement, editing, gripping storytelling, well-crafted scripts, among others. As a result, non-fiction complements the rest of entertainment effectively with entertainment offerings on OTT platforms. Outside of India, you can also see the acclaim our docs have been getting on the global stage at many festivals. This marks an inflection point for the non-fiction category, signaling a promising decade ahead. However, a key challenge remains: OTT players must accelerate efforts to meet the growing demand for high-quality non-fiction content in India.

  1. How do you intend to amplify the reach of your shows?

We are continuously evolving and adapting to the dynamic landscape of content consumption. Our primary focus is on curating and producing top-notch content that resonates with our audiences and is relevant. While we continue to acquire a vast array of shows and offer both live channels and library content to bolster our reach, our emphasis is also on increasing the commissioning of original content manifold. We recognize the pivotal role that originals play in expanding our audience base, and thus, we are making substantial investments across multiple genres to produce compelling original programming around stories that we believe will be able to reach a larger audience set without alienating the core audience. Additionally, we are exploring strategic partnerships with other platforms to further amplify our reach. However, our efforts don't end there. We also prioritize purpose-driven, innovative marketing and communication strategies designed to break through the noise. From immersive social media campaigns to strategic communication efforts that extend our reach beyond boundaries, every step we take aims to ensure our stories resonate far and wide with audiences.

  1. What are the challenges plaguing the OTT space right now?

In the dynamic landscape of the OTT industry, several challenges merit consideration. Despite the presence of numerous players, there's a notable stabilization of paid subscriptions in major cities, while advertising revenue growth remains moderate. OTT operators encounter significant financial and logistical hurdles when negotiating content deals with studios and networks. Retaining subscribers hinges on delivering an impeccable user experience, encompassing high-quality streaming and tailored recommendations. Additionally, navigating regulatory frameworks introduces further complexity, as regulations may affect various operational aspects. Addressing these challenges demands strategic foresight and innovative solutions to adapt effectively to the evolving industry dynamics. Moreover, embracing innovative monetization solutions, such as targeted advertising, premium content offerings, and value-added services, can help OTT operators unlock new revenue streams and drive sustainable growth in an increasingly competitive market.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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