Advanced Television

discovery+ launching in Jan

December 3, 2020

By Colin Mann

Multichannel programmer Discovery has revealed details of its SVoD service, discovery+. Declaring the day to be “very special and historic” for the company, President and CEO David Zaslav confirmed the global launch of what it calls a “definitive” non-fiction, real-life subscription streaming service, debuting in the US on January 4th, 2021.

The new service will launch with a “landmark” partnership with US multiplay telco Verizon that gives its customers with select plans 12 months of discovery+ on Verizon. The global rollout of discovery+ across an initial 25 countries has already begun with the UK and Ireland, as well as India.

At launch in the US, discovery+ will have what it claims is the largest-ever content offering of any new streaming service, featuring a wide range of exclusive, original series across popular, passion verticals in which Discovery brands have a strong leadership position, including lifestyle and relationships; home and food; true crime; paranormal; adventure and natural history; as well as science, tech and the environment, and a slate of high-quality documentaries. Verizon will accelerate adoption of discovery+ in the US with an exclusive offer that makes original programming and on-demand favourites available to new and existing customers with select plans.

“We have been working methodically the past two years to bring all of our strategic advantages to the launch of discovery+, including distribution and advertising partnerships around the world, a world-class offering of quality brands, authentic personalities and the largest content library at launch, as well as a broad slate of exclusive programming,” advised Zaslav. “With discovery+, we are seizing the global opportunity to be the world’s definitive product for unscripted storytelling, providing households and mobile consumers a distinct, clear and differentiated offering across valuable and enduring lifestyle, and real-life verticals. We believe discovery+ is the perfect complement to every streaming portfolio, and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with Verizon to bring this incredible content to their customer base.”

The service will launch with over 50 original series, “more than any SVoD service a launch” according to Zaslav, who declared that because of this, and more, he believed that discovery+ would be a “compelling and powerful offering that’s attractive to everyone in the family, all over the world, and will be a huge global success,” suggesting that the global SVoD market would “never be the same”.

In the US, discovery+ will offer more than 55,000 episodes all in one place, with over 2,500 current and classic shows from Discovery’s iconic portfolio of networks, including HGTV, Food Network, TLC, ID, OWN, Travel Channel, Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.

As part of a new content partnership, discovery+ will bring together for the first time the top non-fiction content from A&E, The HISTORY Channel and Lifetime with the Discovery brand portfolio, deepening the service’s leadership position as the premier destination for the best in real life entertainment.

Additionally, discovery+ will also offer what it says is the definitive collection of nature and environmental programming, headlined by exclusive streaming access to the BBC’s largest natural history offering, including The Mating GamePlanet Earth and Blue Planet, plus content from digital-first brand The Dodo. discovery+ will also feature special content partnerships with the top environmental organisations in the world, including The Explorers Club, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), The Nature Conservancy, Oceana and World Wildlife Fund.

The Verizon deal primes discovery+ for wide-scale home and mobile entertainment viewing at launch. Under the partnership, Verizon customers on select plans will enjoy up to 12 months of discovery+ with fast speeds on 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Home Internet and Fios. At launch, new and existing wireless customers with a Play More or Get More Unlimited plan will get 12 months of discovery+ on Verizon; customers with Start or Do More Unlimited plans will receive 6 months of streaming on Verizon.

New customers who sign up for Verizon 5G Home Internet or Fios Gigabit Connection can receive 12 months of discovery+ on Verizon; new Fios customers may also be eligible for three to six months depending on their plan. The offer adds access to thousands of hours of valuable premium video and a leading industry partner to the nation’s most-awarded network.

“Connecting people to their passions is at the core of what we do, and adding discovery+ on us is a phenomenal way to serve customers who love lifestyle, home, food, true crime and natural history content from one of the popular portfolios of video brands,” said Ronan Dunne, CEO of Verizon Consumer Group. “Our Mix & Match plans already offer unrivaled value in entertainment, so we’re excited to kick off 2021 by giving customers up to 12 months of discovery+, adding even more value and choice as we continue to build our ecosystem of incredible partners and services.”

Internationally, Discovery will leverage its extensive library of local-language content, as well as its broad portfolio of live sports, to drive its direct-to-consumer offering across more than 25 key markets in 2021, including the Nordics, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. discovery+ will also launch in Latin American markets, including a planned launch in Brazil, and in parts of Asia.

Expanding upon Discovery’s strong relationships with distribution partners, discovery+ launched with Sky in the UK and Ireland in November 2020. Sky is currently offering discovery+ to its millions of Sky Q customers for 12 months at no extra cost. discovery+ will further be supported by TIM in Italy in early 2021.

In the European markets launching in 2021, discovery+ will be supported by Eurosport’s premium and locally-relevant multi-sport offering, which includes the tennis Grand Slams, cycling Grand Tours, motorsport, football and winter sports. Beginning with the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021, it will become the streaming Home of the Olympics in Europe with access to every minute, every medal, and every hero live and on demand.

“With decades of connecting audiences in every corner of the globe to the local voices and stories they love, Discovery drives inspiration, aspiration and loyalty everywhere, like few media brands can,” asserted JB Perrette, President and CEO of Discovery International. “discovery+ will harness our unique global and local model and strategy to serve fans around the world as we bring the best of real-life entertainment to customers in a whole new way.”

In terms of advertising, discovery+ has signed select partners to create what it suggests are organic, innovative ad experiences for US viewers. Inaugural advertising partners include Boston Beer Company, Kraft Heinz, Lowe’s and Toyota, with more partners to be announced soon. With lighter ad loads on discovery+, the broadcaster suggests that each consumer interaction will be powerful and impactful, delivering an “unparalleled” data-driven advertising experience. Sponsors will have the ability to help craft the next evolution of the media landscape on discovery+.

For direct purchase, discovery+ will be available in the US starting at $4.99 per month, with an ad-free version available for $6.99 per month. Each account will include up to five user profiles and four concurrent streams, among the most offered in the streaming video category. At launch, discovery+ will be available across major platforms, including connected TVs, web, mobile and tablets. Verizon customers will receive up to 12 months of discovery+ on select plans.

For the first time, discovery+ will offer all in one place the definitive collection of science, nature and environmental programming, headlined by exclusive streaming access to the BBC’s largest natural history offering, and featuring shows such as Planet EarthBlue PlanetFrozen Planet, as well as the US premiere of A Perfect Planet. 

The new five-part series is narrated by Sir David Attenborough and created by the executive producer of Planet Earth and The Hunt. In what Discovery call a “unique” fusion of blue-chip natural history and earth sciences, A Perfect Planet explains how the living planet operates, showing how the forces of nature – weather, ocean currents, solar energy and volcanoes – drive, shape and support Earth’s great diversity of life. In doing so, it will reveal how animals are perfectly adapted to whatever the environment throws at them.

Speaking before the launch announcement, Mark Inskip, CEO UK & Ireland, Kantar (Media Division), said the service was launching into a fiercely-competitive streaming market. “According to our DIMENSION 2020 report, most consumers who pay for online streaming don’t pay for more than two or three subscriptions, with Netflix being the most popular option, so it’s never been more challenging for new players to win a share of the finite consumer purse,” he suggested.

“The platform looks to establish itself as the go-to streaming destination for factual, lifestyle and reality content in order to attract paying subscribers to its ‘Entertainment pass’ globally,” he observed. “But with many households feeling the pinch at the moment, it could be the service’s ad-funded catch up format which will draw consumer eyeballs around the world. In any case, as streamers increasingly look to cover all bases in such a crowded market – with more partnerships between players highly likely as reported in our Media Trends & Predictions 2021 report – understanding the consumer mindset will prove critical to winning and growing audiences in 2021. After a year of upheaval, vaccine announcements and the possibility of partial shift to the old ‘normal’ are set to shake up consumer attitudes and behaviours once again, and staying on top of those trends has never been more essential to effective marketing and service offer formulation.”

Also speaking before the launch, Dave Castell, GM of Inventory and Partnerships for EMEA, The Trade Desk, said that in the year that has tied consumers to their sofas more than ever before, making headway in the hugely-competitive streaming market will require strategic mastery from Discovery’s global streaming offer, as so many services scramble for a piece of the pie. “Whilst consumer time is in no short supply, the same can’t be said for spend – according to our research, £20 is the maximum most Brits are willing to commit to TV streaming services and almost 80 per cent of Americans say they won’t go over $40, with over half capping spend at $20.”

“Original, well-loved factual, lifestyle and reality content focused on tapping into streamers’ passions and interests may well help attract subscribers to Discovery’s paid-for offer, but the most exciting aspect of the established service is undoubtedly its ad-funded catch-up format. We know that 87 per cent of Brits and 78 per cent of US consumers are open to seeing adverts in exchange for free content, and with Covid continuing to impact household finances around the world, this swing towards looking for cheaper or free entertainment is only set to increase. This smart move has equipped Discovery+ with its best chance of gaining viewer share in the face of fierce competition and it’s only a matter of time before other big players sit up and take note – particularly now the service is going global. It’s great to see another major broadcaster with more than 30 years heritage thinking holistically about the future of ad-funded linear and digital together in Europe, and beyond,” he concluded.

In advance of the launch, Steve Miller-Jones, VP of edge solutions and solution architecture at Limelight Networks, noted that with a growing number of high-quality online video offerings, consumers are spoilt for choice, and that it is up to Discovery to find ways to deliver game-changing video content quickly and efficiently to compete. “Video platforms need to offer a high-quality, consistent offering to keep their audience engaged,” he suggested. “Our research found that over 70 per cent of global online viewers are now subscribing to one or more subscription video on demand service. Over half of UK viewers cite video rebuffering as the most frustrating aspect of watching video online, with 60 per cent abandoning a video if it rebuffers as many as two times.

“From preserving outstanding video quality to service reliability and low latency, it all comes down to robust delivery strategies. Publishers, CDNs and service providers need to consider built-in contingency and scale. But it also comes down to the content itself. Streaming services will need to offer an all-round quality experience from story to delivery,” he advised.

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