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Discovery Puts Digital Content, Ad Pacts Center Stage at Upfront

The emphasis on digital content was hard to miss at Discovery Communications’ upfront presentation on Tuesday. Executives talked up plans for new Snapchat programs, a third Amazon-distributed app, VR and the first wave of exclusive shows for Discovery’s authenticated streaming platforms.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav said the company’s $100 million investment last year in digital studio Group Nine reflected a shift in thinking about the fundamentals of the business.

“We’re changing the culture of our company,” Zaslav said. “We’re making the pivot from being a company about channels to a company about IP.”

Discovery’s investment in the Eurosport sports programming business overseas has also helped solidify the thinking about the importance of having capitalizing on linear programming assets with digital extensions. The company’s new mantra, Zaslav stated, is to “own all of our IP everywhere in the world on every device.”

 

Zaslav talked up Discovery’s Snapchat Discover programming partnership, which is creating new advertising opportunities. “We’re learning from the ability to tell stories in one minute,” he said. Eurosport is creating a dedicated channel for Snapchat focused on the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, helping to make the most of Discovery’s investment in rights to the Olympics in key European territories for the next 10 years.

Paul Guyardo, Discovery’s chief commercial officer, said Snapchat shows derived from Discovery’s vast archive of programs such as “Shark Week” and “Mythbusters” amounts to “a terrific way (for advertisers) to extend reach by buying inventory on made-for-mobile digital extensions.”

Discovery as of next month will add a third paid app to its list of Amazon-distributed content offerings. “Say Yes” is tied to TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” franchise and is stocked with wedding-related programs and content. The app will be offered for $3.99 a month alongside the existing Investigation Discovery-branded True Crime app and the Destination Unknown paranormal-themed app.

Guyardo touted the growth of Discovery’s authenticated streaming platforms for each of its channels. He said viewership was growing by double digits monthly and the average session time was about 65 minutes. Some 6 million “Go” apps have been downloaded to mobile and tablet devices.

Discovery hopes to entice more viewing by launching original programming for those channels, starting with a show that will catch up with past couples featured on the TLC series “90 Day Fiance.” Set to launch in the summer, “90 Day Fiance: What Now” will be available only on the TLC Go streaming channel.

The message from the emphasis on digital initiatives early on in Discovery’s two-hour presentation was clear: Discovery is not going to be a dinosaur as the TV world evolves.

But some aspects of the TV business will never change: star power and showmanship. Zaslav announced with glee that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has signed on to be a part of Discovery’s annual “Shark Week” presentation this year. The specifics of his role are still being worked out but Zaslav said there had been some discussion of finding a way to have the 23-time gold medalist race a shark. “He’s going to have a lot of fun with us and we’re going to have a lot of fun with him,” Zaslav promised.

 

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