As Disney, Netflix and WarnerMedia try to boost new streaming-video hubs with glitzy movies and TV celebrities, rival Discovery plans a different hook: real life.
The company best known for cable networks like Discovery Channel, TLC, Food Network and HGTV centered on unscripted programming, unveiled a new “Discovery Plus” streaming hub Wednesday, offering the service at $4.99 per month with ads and $6.99 per month without. Discovery plans to team up with Verizon, the telecommunications provider that helped distribute Disney Plus, which will make the new service available for free to its customers, depending on their plan. The service will debut in January.
“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,” said David Zaslav, the company’s chairman and CEO, during prepared remarks. “We believe Discovery Plus is the perfect complement to every streaming portfolio.”
The company said the new streaming outlet would debut with more than 55,000 episodes of its various series, some of them tailored for individual markets around the world, with specific languages. A+E Networks’ Lifetime, A&E and History will also contribute non-fiction content to the service,, which will include popular natural-history offerings from the BBC. And Discovery Plus will feature early access to programming from Magnolia, the cable network and content hub being produced by home-arts celebrities Chip and Joanna Gaines under a pre-existing partnership with Discovery.
Discovery makes the leap to streaming after larger rivals have already unveiled new efforts to catch a widening group of consumers who are abandoning traditional ways of watching TV. In recent months, WarnerMedia has debuted HBO Max and NBCUniversal has launched Peacock. Walt Disney has taken control of Hulu and put heavy resources into Disney Plus, All of them are competing with Netflix as well as Amazon’s streaming offerings. And more are on the way: ViacomCBS plans to unveil a new subscription service called Paramount Plus. Meanwhile, a host of ad-supported free services such as Pluto and Tubi have also gained traction.
In the recent past, Discovery has relied on niche streaming operations, including a service called “Kitchen” aimed at fans of Food Network and Cooking Channel. For years, however, CEO Zaslav has bragged to investors that the company, unlike many of its rivals, controlled the rights to the majority of its original series, noting that the library would prove to be a formidable asset.
Executives are counting on Discovery’s international connections to fuel the service. In past remarks to investors, Zaslav has touted the fact that the company’s library includes versions of its popular shows made for viewers in South America or Nordic countries. Other streaming outlets, the executive says, often develop a big marquee scripted property that has to be dubbed for different viewer niches, but Discovery has a supply of programming already created for viewers in different parts of the globe. They also see a chance to use the new outlet to court mobile consumers who are dropping linear pay-TV services.
“We have a strong, differentiated proposition,” said JB Perrette, who oversees Discovery’s international operations.
Like other ad-supported outlets, Discovery intends to run its new service with a lower ad load than most traditional networks, with the chance to offer subscribers commercials that are tailored to their preferences. Lowe’s, Boston Beer Co., KraftHeinz, Toyota and PepsiCo have signed up as charter sponsors of the service. The ad-supported version of the service will run with five minutes of ads per hour, executives said during a presentation to investors.
The service will feature a significant amount of original programming. Kathleen Finch, Discovery’s chief content officer, said Discovery Plus would attempt to harness the popular TLC series “90 Day Fiance” and transform it into a broader phalanx of programming, including shows in which various participants in the show offer previously undisclosed details (“90 Days Bares All”); ornavigate the coronavirus pandemic (“90 Days Bares All”). A third series will curate every scene a particular couple has appeared in across all “90 Day” episodes. New food-content offerings will include a series in which Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis take viewers on a tour across Italy and an updated and uncensored version of comedian Amy Schumer’s recent Food Network series.
Other originals will include “Route 66,” an adventure series from executive producer Will Packer that features Kevin Hart; “Mysterious Planet,” a nature series narrated by David Schwimmer; and a new series led by non-fiction star Mike Rowe. Discovery said it would also aim to provide content for people interested in the paranormal and horror genres, including “an exclusive multi-project deal with director Eli Roth.”
Discovery will also make use of its Eurosport operations. Discovery Plus is slated to serve as the streaming provider of the Olympic Games to Europe, starting with the Tokyo Games in 2021. The service will also offer other event to which Eurosport has rights, including tennis Grand Slams and cycling Grand Tours.