Discovery+ Now Streaming on LG Smart TVs in the U.S.

Discovery and LG Electronics USA Oct. 13 announced that the Discovery+ subscription streaming service is now available as an app on LG Smart TVs in the United States, including LG OLED TVs and LG QNED Mini-LED TVs.

LG Smart TV owners can now access to the $4.99 monthly ad-supported service ($6.99 without ads) on the TV’s webOS platform. Discovery+ features reality-based programming, including True Crime, Home, Love & Relationships, Food, Paranormal & Unexplained and Adventure, as well as documentaries, such as the premiere of Introducing, Selma Blair.

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“We are thrilled to expand the availability of discovery+ and provide LG customers a direct and easy way to stream our much-loved brands, series and talent,” Gabriel Sauerhoff, SVP of digital distribution and commercial partnerships at Discovery, said in a statement. “The announcement of Discovery+ on LG Smart TVs builds upon our existing relationship with a valued partner, and we look forward to the continued growth of discovery+ and reaching more fans around the world.”

Discovery+ offers 60,000 episodes of current and classic shows from Discovery’s portfolio of networks, including HGTV, Food Network, TLC, ID, OWN, Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Magnolia Network, as well as more than 200 Discovery+ original titles and hundreds of hours of exclusive content. Additionally, the service offers top non-fiction content from A&E, History channel and Lifetime, as well as the definitive offering of nature and environmental programming, headlined by exclusive streaming access to the largest collection of natural history from the BBC.

Discovery is in the process of getting regulatory approval for its $43 billion minority ownership, operational control deal for WarnerMedia. The new company will be called Warner Bros. Discovery.

Discovery CEO in L.A. ‘Learning’ About Warner Bros. Ahead of WarnerMedia Takeover

Discovery CEO David Zaslav is in Los Angeles meeting with executives at Warner Bros. ahead of the media company (and him) assuming operational control of the studio and the other WarnerMedia business units, HBO and Turner, in 2022.

Speaking Sept. 21 at the virtual Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, Zaslav said he has spent the past two weeks in the Southland familiarizing himself with the venerable studio, executives and staff.

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“The more I look at Warner has, what HBO has, and see what [Warner boss] Ann [Sarnoff], [AT&T CEO] John [Stankey] and [WarnerMedia CEO] Jason [Kilar] have been doing, together, I think we have the best IP menu in the world,” Zaslav said. “We’re working hard at what this [Warner Bros. Discovery] company will look like.”

Zaslav said he spending two weeks a month in Southern California attending studio and off-site meetings with executives and lawyers.

“There was a lot we couldn’t see and couldn’t talk about [until the $43 deal billion closes],” he said, adding that on the Discovery integration team the company has 182 “work streams” in motion ahead of the merger.

What the Warner Bros. Discovery direct-to-consumer products, i.e. HBO Max and Discovery+, will look like remains a work in progress Zaslav said he couldn’t discuss in further detail. At the end of the most-recent fiscal period, HBO and HBO Max had a combined 47 million subscribers, while Discovery+ had 18 million subs.

“Now, we’re going to position ourselves, so when we close we can affect that strategy and drive ourselves onto ever [streaming] device around the world,” he said.

Discovery+ Greenlights Doc on Alleged Qatar World Cup Soccer Corruption

Discovery+ Sept. 20 announced the commission of the two-part documentary The Men Who Sold the World Cup, about the alleged corruption surrounding the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The series premieres exclusively on Discovery+ Oct. 17, and in the United Kingdom Oct. 21.

The oil-rich Middle East country of Qatar secured the surprise World Cup host bid in 2010 despite having scant soccer fans and even fewer air-conditioned stadiums required to host the quadrennial event in triple-digit temperatures.

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While the awarding of the World Cup to countries has been rumored for years to have been infested with bribery, corruption, global politics, backroom deals and greed, documentary directors Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme (Get Me Roger Stone, The Swamp) showcase an unbelievable story of how soccer’s biggest competition was sold to the highest bidders.

With exclusive interviews from those at the heart of the story, the documentary reveals the stranger-than-fiction truth behind how the event was sold by some of international soccer’s most senior officials — notably ex-FIFA boss Sepp Blatter — and how they were eventually evicted from their seats of power and luxury lifestyles.

This was a world where, for some, normal rules didn’t apply and bribery and embezzlement were just part of business. The doc is a Shakespearian narrative of money, power and corruption, featuring a cast of outrageous characters, including U.S. soccer bigwig Chuck Blazer and Qatari deal-maker Mohamed Bin Hammam, among others.

Contributors include a whistle-blower from the Qatari bid team; Blatter’s former press chief; soccer greats Jurgen Klinsmann and Landon Donovan; and Blatter, among others.

The first episode features Sunday Times investigators Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert, and follows their investigation that revealed rampant corruption at the heart of FIFA. The second episode features FBI and IRS investigators whose job it was to expose criminal behavior they likened to organized crime.

The Men Who Sold the World Cup is a highly gripping series that provides a yet untold insight into one of the biggest sports scandals in history,” Simon Downing, head of factual and sports U.K. at Discovery, said in a statement. “The series is a great addition to our Discovery+ Original Sports content, including highly titles like Reaching The Sky and What Killed Maradona?”

CFO: Discovery Eyeing Ad-Lite Options for HBO Max, Discovery+

The pending $43 billion merger between Discovery and WarnerMedia is set to create a new company called Warner Bros. Discovery. How that combination will affect each company’s branded SVOD platform remains “the $64,000 question,” one Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels shed little new light on.

Speaking Sept. 13 at the virtual Banc of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, Wiedenfels reiterated that the combined companies would realize $3 billion in synergies, including merging backend technologies driving the respective direct-to-consumer platforms, in addition to increasing average-revenue-per-subscriber, or ARPU.

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“I have no doubt we are creating one of the content powerhouses in the world,” Wiedenfels said. “As a consumer, I can’t wait to access to that kind of a content portfolio.”

Gunnar Wiedenfels

HBO Max and HBO ended the most-recent fiscal period with 47 million combined domestic subs, and 67.5 million subs globally. Discovery+ topped 17 million paid subs through the second quarter (ended June 30), and 18 million through Aug. 3.

Whether that translates into a combined streaming service or co-bundled combo, and at what price points, Wiedenfels wouldn’t address. He said both companies spent much of the summer ironing out details, including complementary content portfolios, and have “pretty much” a plan in place with a few “tweaks here and there” that he said would remain under wraps until the merger passes regulatory approval.

“I think [Discovery CEO] David [Zaslav] and the team have a pretty clear view,” he said. “Their whole strategy will be guided by what the consumer wants. I think we have our ducks aligned here. I’m really looking forward to coming out with more [details] as we go along.”

When asked about ad-supported options for Max and Discovery+, Wiedenfels said senior management would look “very hard” at the concept, adding that he believes Discovery and Max’s content alone justify a monthly subscription.

“That’s going to continue to be the priority,” he said.

The CFO admitted that an ad-based less expensive option of Discovery+ actually generates higher ARPU than the ad-free SVOD, adding that so-called “ad-lite” SVOD versions are being considered for rollout in Europe.

“It continues to be a focus area for us,” he said. “It’s something that’s going to be in the mix going forward. Whether at some point there may be an AVOD-only, subscription-free product, that remains to be seen. But it’s not a priority.”

Discovery+ Joins Nordics Pay-TV Platform

Discovery’s international expansion of its branded subscription streaming video platform, Discovery+, got a boost with the announcement of a carriage agreement with Nordics pay-TV distributor Allente.

Launched earlier this year in the U.S., Discovery+ aims to expand SVOD service to 25 markets in 2021, including India, the Nordic countries, Holland and Spain.

As part of the Nordics agreement, Discovery+ will stream 480 soccer matches from Sweden’s top and second Allsvenskan and Superettan leagues, in addition to the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing in Februay. The deal also includes popular local series “Wahlgren’s World,” “All Against All” and “Across the Atlantic.”

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“Long-term partnerships are becoming increasingly important in the fast-moving television industry,” Jonas Gustafsson, CEO of Allente, said in a statement. “We are therefore particularly pleased to present this agreement.”

Allente later this year will also add Discovery’s Eurosport 1 and Eurosport 2 channels to its platform.

Discovery+ Greenlights Two Specials on ‘SmartLess’ Podcast

The Discovery+ subscription streaming service Aug. 16 said it has ordered two 75-minute documentary-style specials following Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett during the North American tour for their hit podcast “SmartLess.”

The untitled docuseries, coming to Discovery+ in 2022, will feature highlights from their celebrity interviews during the tour, as well as exclusive, behind-the-scenes access throughout the six-city tour that takes place in February.

“Jason, Sean and Will are three absolute legends who have accomplished so much in this industry — from comedy to drama, on the stage and to our screens,” said Lisa Holme, Group SVP of content and commercial strategy for Discovery Inc. “As they are now conquering the world of podcasts, we’re excited to show an entirely new side of them in this docuseries, where we will have incredible access to all the behind-the-scenes moments from what is sure to be an insightful and hilarious tour.”

The Discovery+ deal for “SmartLess” was put together by Aleen Keshishian of Lighthouse Management & Media. “SmartLess” is a podcast that connects people from all walks of life to learn about shared experiences. It has been named one of the Best Shows of 2020 by Apple and consistently ranks among the Top 5 Comedy Shows and Top 10 on overall shows on iTunes. As of Aug.  1, new episodes will be released exclusively for one week on Amazon Music and Wondery+ before they are widely available on all other platforms.

“SmartLess” podcast guests have included Vice President Kamala Harris, George Clooney, Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler, Ricky Gervais, Bryan Cranston, Paul McCartney, Tina Fey, Awkwafina, W. Kamau Bell, Stacey Abrams, Billie Eilish and Megan Rapinoe.

Discovery, U.S. Decry Poland’s ‘Troubling’ Media Crackdown

Discovery Inc., which is seeking to co-own and control WarnerMedia, is facing the possibility of being barred from owning and operating a television station in Poland. The nationalist ruling political party is trying to enact legislation that would prohibit any foreign company from owning a majority stake in local TV broadcasters, including over-the-top media.

Discovery owns and operates TVN, a Polish broadcaster that often airs stories critical of the populist “Law and Justice” right-wing party that spearheads the coalition government. Discovery is looking to expand its branded Discovery+ streaming service throughout Europe.

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The ruling party says the proposed legislation is aimed at preventing overarching influence from Russia and China, but critics contend the move is designed to curb press freedoms and government scrutiny.

“Poland’s future as a democratic country in the international arena and its credibility in the eyes of investors depend on this,” Discovery said in a statement first reported by the AP.

The action has drawn notice from the U.S. State Department, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who urged Polish President Andrzej Duda not to sign the bill.

“The United States is deeply troubled by draft legislation passed today by the lower house of the Polish parliament that targets the most watched independent news station, which is also one of the largest U.S. investments in the country,” Blinken wrote in a statement. “Poland has worked for decades to foster a vibrant and free media. This draft legislation would significantly weaken the media environment the Polish people have worked so long to build. This draft legislation threatens media freedom and could undermine Poland’s strong investment climate.”

Poland, a NATO ally, is home to more than 4,500 U.S. soldiers.

9/11 Doc ‘No Responders Left Behind’ Coming to Discovery+ Sept. 9

The 9/11 documentary No Responders Left Behind will debut on Discovery+ Sept. 9.

It follows the work of the men and women, including first responder and 9/11 social activist John Feal, FDNY hero Ray Pfeifer, and 22-time Primetime Emmy award-winner and former host of “The Daily Show” Jon Stewart, in their fight to get health benefits and compensation for 9/11 first responders.

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Shot over five years, the documentary reveals the unwavering fight by members of The FealGood Foundation and their leader John Feal, who mobilizes the campaign in the fight for healthcare and benefits for the thousands of responders who are suffering with life-threatening and financially devastating illnesses from toxins released at Ground Zero after 9/11.

Discovery+ Tops 18 Million Paid Subscribers, Thanks to the Olympics

Discovery+, the subscription streaming video platform Discovery launched in January for $4.99 per month ($6.99 ad-free), topped 17 million paid subscribers through the second quarter (ended June 30), and 18 million through Aug. 3. The tally, which includes Eurosport Player and GolfTV, among others, is up from 15 million paid subs in April and 13 million at the end of the first quarter, ended March 31.

“We continued to steadily execute in our emerging next generation businesses,” CEO David Zaslav said in a statement.

Discovery, which is attempting to close its $43 billion minority stake control of WarnerMedia from AT&T, will meld Discovery+ with HBO Max when the new Warner Bros. Discovery media company is formed following regulatory approval.

Discovery+ Delivers Streaming Gold at Tokyo Olympics

The opening week of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo saw record numbers visit Discovery’s digital platforms in Europe. Almost three-quarters of a billion streaming minutes of content has been consumed on Discovery+ and Eurosport Player during the first week, nearly 18 times more than by the same stage of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The Discovery+ subscription streaming video service launched in January this year, while the Eurosport Player bowed in 2008, with mobile versions debuting in 2011.

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While Comcast/NBCUniversal have exclusive rights to the games in North America, Discovery secured its first rights in 50 markets in Europe for $1.5 billion featuring 11 national productions and coverage in 19 languages.

With European viewers able to personalize their Olympics coverage, Discovery scored a large linear-TV audience share, underscoring widespread interest in the delayed Tokyo Games across the Nordic markets where Discovery is presenting the Games on its free-to-air networks. Shares as high as 78% in Norway (Handball, Spain vs. Norway); 67% in Sweden (Football, Sweden vs. Australia); and 60% in Sweden (Swimming) were recorded.

Discovery’s multi-platform distribution has generated more than 275 million European viewers of the Games so far. More than 100 million have watched through Discovery’s coverage on TV and digital, and an additional 175 million more have watched the Games through Discovery’s license agreements with free-to-air broadcasters around Europe.

Combined, this represents a 10% higher reach than PyeongChang 2018, with the average audience share of Discovery’s pay-TV channels improving by more than 30%.

“When we look back at the first week, it is clear the Olympics has brought new and different audiences to our platforms in impressive numbers,” Jean-Briac Perrette, CEO of Discovery International, said in a statement. “The Tokyo Games are seeing digital numbers never seen before, and we are thrilled that so many fans across Europe are watching the Games on discovery+ and Eurosport Player.”

Eurosport.com and its multiple local market versions have also seen record breaking daily audiences, with three times higher reach as the same stage of PyeongChang 2018. Interest in the Olympics delivered a record month for the website in July as 54 million unique users visited the platform.

“Whether through record digital engagement on Discovery’s platforms or large audience share on our networks, it is clear these games are having a big impact,” said Andrew Georgiou, president of sports for Discovery.