If Discovery Channel had a younger sibling, what would it look like? The answer was revealed on April 2 when Discovery Kids officially rolled out in India, The Philippines and Indonesia. Since then, the network has added Singapore to its growing distribution road map (launched on StarHub TV on September 14); offering Hindi, Tamil and Bahasa Indonesia full dubs in addition to English; and surpassing the 13 million subscriber mark.

Despite recent news of The Walt Disney Company Southeast Asia launching new boys-focused channel Disney XD in Malaysia, and Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific rolling out two more kids channels, Toonami and Cartoonito, Discovery Kids maintains there is room for more children’s channels.

Kevin Dickie, Senior Vice President, Content Group, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific (DNAP), explains that the broadcaster decided to launch a new kids channel because firstly, there was a gap in DNAP’s portfolio (none of its channels cater to the younger demographic) and secondly, there was an untapped gap in the Asian kids pay-TV market. Dickie rationalised that there are currently no channels in the sector for edutainment programming targeting older school-going kids aged 6 to 12. He posits that most kids channels targets either older children with entertainment content as the main driver, or the youngerskewed pre-school genre.

“We also factored in the extent of how far each network extends into the space where Discovery Kids is,” explains Dickie, concluding that there are no natural competitors. Discovery Kids is thus positioned to occupy this vacant quadrant, serving older children with educational content. Mark Hollinger, President and Chief Executive Officer, Discovery Networks International, announced in March that, “Discovery Kids will offer children the ideal combination of learning and entertainment. A unique network in the kids’ genre, Discovery Kids will offer children a fun and entertaining way to satisfy their natural curiosity. The network will ignite viewers’ imagination through its compelling and differentiated content.”

The channel also hopes to facilitate more effective learning by bringing families together through the experience of “co-viewing”.

Research conducted with Patricia Koh from renowned preschool chain Pat’s Schoolhouse in Singapore, according to Dickie, showed there is an appetite among BOTH kids and parents for a channel that is fun yet enriching. “Kids are not that much different from adults in the sense that they create a shortlist of channels that they go to. The parents will then filter that ‘list’. If they find something objectionable they will say ‘you are not allowed to watch this.’ So the adult is creating that framework. We want to make sure that parents will be actively encouraging kids to have our channel in their shortlist,” says Dickie.

Transformative programming
Dickie says programmes like Wild Kratts, Bindi’s Bootcamp and Head Rush exemplify the type of content that represents the channel’s core values – “programming that can truly be transformative”.

Unlike the flagship Discovery Channel, however, personality-driven programming will not be at the top of Discovery Kids’ list of priorities.

“Dick ‘N’ Dom is personality-led but frankly, even though they are in the title, it’s actually more about the kids involved and what the kids are doing in the show rather than Dick and Dom themselves. So talent is important but not as much as a TLC or a Discovery Channel,” explains Dickie. “Will talent and personalities still play a role on the network? Absolutely. Do we hope to develop some local talent that’s part of local productions and development piece? Yes. But there will be titles – a lot of titles – where the emphasis and the focus is on the content rather than the talent.”