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Discovery+ Rollout Plan Revealed For January U.S. Launch; Verizon Deal In Place

Dade Hayes
·3-min read

Discovery on Wednesday announced the launch of streaming service Discovery+, which brings together offerings from Discovery Channel, TLC, ID, Food Network, HGTV and other networks.

Featuring some 55,000 hours of programming, the service will go live in the U.S. on January 4, at a price of $5 a month with ads and $7 for an ad-free version. A partnership with Verizon will offer customers with select wireless and TV plans 12 months of Discovery+. The global rollout of Discovery+ across an initial 25 countries has already begun with India, the UK and Ireland. Internationally, distribution partners include Sky in the UK and Ireland and TIM in Italy.

Discovery revealed the details during a pre-taped, 90-minute investor presentation and in a press release today.

Along with fare from Discovery’s stable of network brands, programming for Discovery+ will come from the BBC’s Natural History collection, A+E Networks, Group Nine and other suppliers. The slate’s talent lineup will include Chip and Joanna Gaines, Sir David Attenborough, David Schwimmer, Will Packer and Kevin Hart; Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis. Also headed for the streaming platform will be a set of new franchises based on TLC’s runaway hit, 90 Day Fiancé.

As viewing has increasingly shifted from linear TV to streaming in recent years, Discovery has long resisted launching a direct-to-consumer offering in the U.S. In other territories, it has operated Eurosport and golf subscription offerings and tried a stateside niche service, Food Network Kitchen, last year but appeared to get little traction with it.

Along with other cable programmers looking to safeguard their position from digital threats, it backed TV Everywhere, an initiative born a decade ago in partnership with pay-TV operators. TV Everywhere enables streaming but within the traditional bundle and only when viewers log in and authenticate their pay-TV subscriptions, which is often a cumbersome process compared with experiences like Netflix. Then, when so-called “skinny bundles” gained traction, Discovery focused on securing distribution with the largest number of those providers, enabling it to reach cord-cutters without taking on the expense and risk of a DTC service.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav often likes to point out that Discovery’s TV Everywhere services still generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Rather than make a sharp turn into digital, Discovery is attempting to more gradually segue from the ultra-lucrative cable era to the more uncertain economics of streaming. On the company’s most recent quarterly earnings call with analysts last month, Zaslav talked up the company’s streaming prospects but also said the company has “a free cash flow machine that will continue for a very long period of time to generate real return with great margins.”

The field of subscription streaming competitors has grown significantly more crowded in the past couple of years, with the launches of well-funded offerings like HBO Max, Peacock, Apple TV+ and Disney+. Another recent entrant is CuriosityStream, a non-fiction service created by Discovery founder John Hendricks that offers a range of programming across categories like nature, history and technology. Priced at just $3 a month in the U.S., it has reached more than 13 million subscribers in 175 countries and the company had its initial public offering earlier this fall.

Discovery set a co-venture in 2019 with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Fixer Upper hosts and lifestyle entrepreneurs, for a new cable network, Magnolia. It will move into Discovery DIY’s spot on the dial in a rebrand now set for 2021 after Covid-19 delayed its planned October debut. A Magnolia subscription streaming outlet is also in the offing, though a launch date and full details have not been announced. Discovery+ will feature early looks at programming from Magnolia, including the updated version of Fixer Upper.

In 2018, Discovery closed its $14.6 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive, which added networks like HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel to its portfolio.

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