Chefs Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis in Tuscany for Bobby and Giada in Italy
When Discovery became the latest media giant to take its act over-the-top, Shark Week, 90 Day Fiancé and a host of other TV favorites became available to viewers without a cable, satellite or telco video subscription.
For $4.99 a month (or $6.99 ad-free), Discovery+ has been streaming to U.S. customers since January, and plans are in place for a continued international expansion later this year.
"There is nothing like it in the market today," says Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav, noting that the subscription video-on-demand service includes more than 55,000 episodes of shows from networks including HGTV, Food Network, TLC, ID, OWN, Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and the forthcoming Magnolia Network.
Beyond well-known shows from the linear networks — such as Property Brothers, Fixer Upper, Chopped and Deadliest Catch, to name a few — and familiar talent including Guy Fieri, Chip and Joanna Gaines, Oprah Winfrey, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, Discovery+ launched with 50 original titles and 150 hours of original just-for-streaming content, much of it spun off from the established brands.
"We launch with significant advantages, including the world's greatest collection of nonfiction brands and content, as well as powerful partnerships with leading distributors and platforms," Zaslav says.
Significant advantages, indeed. Because most of its programming is nonfiction — shot on location and often with minimal cast and crew — Discovery+ has been less shackled by pandemic-related production shutdowns, compared to those streaming startups that saw launch plans affected by their reliance on scripted originals.
Discovery+ charged out of the gate with exclusive-to-streaming shows including 90 Day Bares All, Amy Schumer Learns to Cook (Uncensored), Bobby and Giada in Italy, American Detective with Lt. Joe Kenda, Frozen in Time, HGTV's House Party, Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines, Dr. Pimple Popper:This Is Zit, Mysterious Planet, Amityville Horror House and Super Dad.
However, the network is not encouraging current cable subscribers to drop one subscription for another.
The streaming service is "incremental to your cable subscription and to services you may already have," not a replacement, says Lisa Holme, senior vice-president of content and commercial strategy, and direct-to-consumer for Discovery. Company reps say Discovery+ provides a way for Discovery to add non-pay-TV homes to "cross-platform" packages sold to advertisers.
But the value of Discovery+ is likely key to the company's long-term strategy. Like other media companies, Discovery has seen a significant decline in the number of households taking its linear pay-TV channels.
The good news has been that pretty much every basic-tier pay-TV service in America carries channels like Discovery, HGTV and TLC. The bad news is that the pay-TV ecosystem, which numbered more than 90 million U.S. homes as recently as 2018, is now around 80 million and is expected to decline to around 73 million by 2023.
Happily for Discovery, distribution of its new streaming platform hasn't been an issue. At launch, the Discovery+ app was available on all the big living-room streaming devices — notably Roku and Amazon Fire TV, which shut out Peacock and HBO Max for large stretches of last year amid contract disputes.
Discovery has also partnered with Verizon, giving the company's more than 120 million U.S. wireless phone customers up to 12 free months of Discovery+ service. So for millions, Shark Week can now last all year long.
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 6, 2021