JB Perrette has a unique perch on the global television business.
The longtime Discovery International chief sits atop a collection of more than 200 channels serving up content in more than 50 languages. This summer, he’s in the throes of rolling out the Discovery Plus streaming service in the many territories where Discovery has a strong foothold, and he helped steer Discovery’s Eurosport and its coverage of the Tokyo Olympics. More recently, he’s been embroiled in a fight with the government of Poland over efforts to ban non-European ownership of media, which would impact Discovery’s TVN Group there.
Navigating the cross currents of the global economy is all in a day’s work for Perrette, who has lead Discovery International since 2014. The launch of Discovery Plus, the growth of Eurosport and the surprise of the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger announcement in May has made 2021 a most dynamic year, Perrette says on the latest installment of Variety podcast “Strictly Business.”
“You’ve got to have infrastructure on the ground” to succeed in markets around the world, he says. “The idea of ‘international’ as a single word is the great misnomer. This is a collection of very diverse, very rich and very distinct markets.”
Discovery’s advantage in launching Discovery Plus also comes from experience about which kinds of shows and pricing options work and don’t work in those distinct markets, Perrette says. His team is working on various bundling options for Discovery Plus, Eurosport and other assets under the Discovery International umbrella.
“We’ve got people and teams that know the local markets, they know the marketing channels, they know the local production communities,” he said. “I give real credit to Netflix on this one for having flattened the world from a consumption standpoint of international and global content. We come into this well positioned because we have decades worth of experience at the the local markets level and the international level.”
Perrette is a longtime lieutenant of Discovery CEO David Zaslav. The two worked together in distribution at NBC and NBCUniversal for 11 years before Zaslav took the reins of Discovery in 2007. Perrette followed four years later, first as chief digital officer before he took over international.
Perrette is clearly poised for a large role in the combined WarnerMedia-Discovery venture, if that merger agreement gets approved by regulators. For now, Perrette can only speak of future plans in broadest terms before the transaction is complete.
“This is going to be a powerhouse of an unparalleled content offering that we’ve got to work with,” he says, citing the combined entity’s heft in drama, comedy, lifestyle and factual programming as well as news and sports. “The question for us is how do we take this incredible offering and bring it to customers in a simple and compelling fashion.”