WWE Partners with Discovery to Stream Pro Wrestling in Italy

WWE and Discovery June 24 announced a new multiyear agreement in Italy beginning July 1 that will make WWE’s weekly flagship programming available exclusively live and on-demand with original U.S. commentary on DPlay Plus, Discovery’s SVOD platform, along with versions featuring Italian commentary on DMAX (Channel 52).

Every week, Dplay Plus will air “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night SmackDown” live. NXT will be available on-demand via Dplay Plus every Thursday morning.

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WWE fans can also watch with Italian commentary by Luca Franchini and Michele Posa on Discovery’s free-to-air channel, DMAX. A two-hour version of Raw will premiere on Mondays starting July 13; SmackDown will air on Tuesdays and re-run on Sundays; NXT will air on Saturdays and re-run on Sundays.

“We are thrilled to embark on a new chapter for WWE in Italy as we bring our unique blend of action-packed, family-friendly sports entertainment to Discovery’s free-to-air and premium channels,” Stefan Kastenmüller, SVP, GM, WWE, said in a statement. “We are excited that our relationship with Discovery is enhancing the fan experience in Italy with both primetime and family-friendly timeslots.”

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Alessandro Araimo, managing director of Discovery Italy, said WWE has “conquered a very wide audience” and “we are confident that our channels and platforms can help to further expand the very large Italian fanbase.”

Raw, SmackDown and NXT with Italian commentary will also be available on-demand via Dplay. WWE’s two weekly recap series, “Bottom Line” and “Afterburn,” will be available with original commentary from Dplay Plus.

The agreement with WWE will make the Dplay Plus premium content offer even more exclusive with the platform subscription price unchanged at 3.99 euros ($4.50) per month.

WWE’s monthly pay-per-view events, including WrestleMania and SummerSlam, will stream exclusively on WWE Network in Italy.

Discovery, StarzPlay Partner for SVOD Distribution

Discovery and StarzPlay March 16 announced a partnership that will see the former’s Dplay streaming video service available across the Middle East and Asia (MENA) on StarzPlay, Starz’s international SVOD based in Dubai with more than 1 million subscribers.

The agreement affords StarzPlay subs access to thousands of hours of content, segregated into playlists dedicated to specially curated interest verticals — including crime, lifestyle, food, wildlife and more. New content will be added to the platform each month.

Discovery TV franchises include “Shark Week,” “MythBusters,” “Gold Rush,” “Expedition Unknown,” “House Hunters International” and “Say Yes to the Dress,” among others.

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“This is the first time Discovery is taking its content beyond the pay-TV universe in the region and opening it up to a whole new customer base,” Amanda Turnbull, GM, Discovery Middle East & Africa, said in a statement. “As we commence our pivot toward digital, this milestone sets the benchmark for Discovery’s continued growth in the digital space.”

Following a free trial period of up to one-month (varies across the region), monthly subscription to the content costs AED/SAR15 ($4) per month as an add-on package.

“With this partnership we are starting a new chapter in company’s growth to become the one-stop shop for premium content,” said Danny Bates, chief commercial officer of StarzPlay.”

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Dplay will be available in Q2 2020, through existing StarzPlay apps, including Apple TV. StarzPlay is available to download online and via respective iOS and Android app stores.

 

Discovery Latest Media Company to Nix Upfront TV Shows Presentation

Discovery has become the latest media company cancel its live Upfront presentation in New York. The move followed similar decisions by NBC, CBS, Fox, Disney, The CW and WarnerMedia Entertainment to nix showcasing new TV shows in an effort to thwart staff exposure and possible spread of the coronavirus.

Discovery said its decision was made out of an abundance of caution and care for the health and safety of employees, talent and business partners. Discovery said it has prepared an alternative “digital experience” to showcase the company, portfolio, and advanced advertising products to its clients and agency partners, with details to be announced at a later date.

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“The decision to cancel is bittersweet but unequivocally the right one,” Jon Steinlauf, Discovery’s chief U.S. ad sales officer, said in a statement. “We have a terrific story to tell and more opportunities and products than ever for current and prospective advertisers. We will just tell that story in a way that best suits these unprecedented times.”

Discovery’s content portfolio includes Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and the forthcoming multi-platform joint venture with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the U.S., Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport.

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Discovery Hires Ex-Google Executive as CFO, Head of Strategy, Operations and Direct-to-Consumer

Discovery is ramping up over-the-top video distribution in the United States and internationally. The parent to HGTV, Discovery Channel, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, Turbo/Velocity, Animal Planet, Science Channel, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network and Eurosport, March 10 announced the appointment of Neil Chugani as CFO and head of strategy and operations, Direct-to-Consumer.

The announcement was made by Gunnar Wiedenfels, CFO, Discovery, to whom Chugani reports. In the newly created role, Chugani will work closely with Peter Faricy, CEO, global direct-to-consumer at Discovery, and his team to drive the financial strategy of Discovery’s rapidly expanding DTC team. He will be based at Discovery’s London offices.

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Neil Chugani

“Neil is a highly respected digital finance leader, whose experience and skills will help us further accelerate our strategic pivot as we make our great content and brands available to our passionate fans across all platforms around the world,” Wiedenfels said in a statement.

Chugani will be responsible for formulating and implementing the financial strategy to help Discovery’s ambitious growth objectives in the DTC space. He will work with all of Discovery’s DTC business units, both in the U.S. and International markets to create consistent strategic, financial, and operational practices.

Prior to joining Discovery, Chugani was at Google since 2015, where he was a senior director and held a number of leadership positions. Most recently, he served as CFO for the business and operations of Google and YouTube in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

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Discovery Partnering for Global Bicycle Track Racing League

Media giant Discovery Communications March 2 announced a partnership with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the world bike racing government body, to create a bicycle track racing venue — the UCI Track Cycling World League — in 2021.

Bicycle track racing takes place on velodromes, including the Velo Sports Center in Carson, Calif. The U.S. women’s team just won the team pursuit gold medal at 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin, which ended March 1. American Chloe Dygert Owen won the individual pursuit. Both are favorites to repeat at the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics.

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Under an agreement signed in Berlin, the management, TV production and distribution of the new UCI series will be handled Global Cycling Network (GCN), in collaboration with Eurosport’s promotion division, Eurosport Events. Discovery owns Eurosport and GCN — the latter streaming platform with nearly two million subscribers on YouTube.

World Champion Chloe Dygert Owen

“The partnership with the UCI demonstrates what the scale and expertise of the wider Discovery family can offer partners in sport, providing both highly localized content to the widest variety of audiences as well as offering unrivalled expertise, analysis and storytelling from the best experts,” Andrew Georgiou, president, Eurosport and global sports rights & sports marketing solutions, said in a statement.

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“With this new UCI circuit, the discipline will have a packed and attractive annual calendar that offers variety and will meet the expectations of new audiences while also appealing to existing cycling fans,” said UCI president David Lappartient. “Along with our new partner, we will grow the appeal of track cycling beyond the Olympic Games, where it has been on the program since the very first Games of the modern era, in 1896.”

 

Discovery Hires Hulu’s Lisa Holme as it Ramps Up OTT Distribution

Discovery has hired away Lisa Holme, VP of content acquisition at Hulu, to spearhead the media giant’s digital content strategy going forward.

Holme’s hire was announced during Discovery’s Feb. 27 fiscal call by Peter Faricy, CEO of global direct-to-consumer, overseeing the worldwide digital and direct-to-consumer businesses for Discovery.

A formal announcement will be made later today.

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Lisa Holme

For the past nine years, Holme, according to her LinkedIn page, has spearheaded Hulu’s content licensing activities, including evaluating content, financial analysis and forecasting, negotiating agreements, and operationalizing deals internally.

More importantly for Discovery, Holme helped define content strategy for Hulu (including collaboration with original content) based on subscriber segmentation, competitive landscape, and a “deep understanding of user engagement and retention strategy.”

Discovery is rapidly deploying OTT video ventures overseas, including PGA Tour Live, Dplay in 10 markets, TVN Player in Poland, and Joyn in Germany.

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Discovery CEO David Zaslav, speaking on the fiscal call, said the company would soon launch a streaming service that includes content from all of the company’s brands, including Discovery Channel, TLC, Food Network and HGTV.

 

Discovery Touts Overseas HGTV, Food Network Launches for Driving Revenue Increase

Media giant Discovery Feb. 27 reported fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2019) revenue increased 2% to $2.8 billion, with U.S. advertising and distribution revenue up 1% and 5%, respectively. International advertising and distribution revenue increased 5% and 10%, respectively.

Discovery’s portfolio of premium brands includes Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and the forthcoming multi-platform joint venture with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the U.S., Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport, home of the Olympic Games TV broadcast across Europe.

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Specifically, Discovery attributed revenue gains in part to the globalization of domestic media brands HGTV and Food Network. In 2019, HGTV and Food Network launched in more than 30 new countries and territories combined.

Total share of viewing in 2019 for Discovery’s top 10 international markets increased 2%, on average. The company continued to establish foothold across existing and new direct-to-consumer platforms in Europe, including Dplay in 10 markets, TVN Player in Poland, and Joyn in Germany.

Discovery said it was the most-watched pay-TV portfolio in the U.S. among women 25-54 and 18+ for both primetime and total day in 2019. TLC delivered its best year ever globally, improving both international share and viewership by 8%, and in the U.S., TLC was the fastest growing ad-supported cable network among women 25-54 and 18-49, with its best primetime performance in 16 years.

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“2019 was a year of promises made and promises delivered,” CEO David Zaslav said in a statement. “Our differentiated local content strategy and global scale, coupled with our unique free cash flow conversion profile, provide distinct financial flexibility that allows us to adapt to changing media consumption habits.”

 

CuriosityStream Tops 10.5 Million Paying Subscribers

Who says science, history and volcanoes can’t sell?

CuriosityStream, the subscription streaming video service launched in 2015  by the founder of Discovery Channel, has topped 10.5 million paying subscribers, according to company officials.

That beats HBO Now, CBS All Access, Showtime, Apple TV+, among other higher-profile SVOD services.

CuriosityStream’s SVOD platform offers more than 2,800 premium factual and non-fiction titles that cover the full breadth and depth of the genre from science and space to history and wildlife to food and lifestyle.

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In addition to its new “bundled” carriage plan for U.S. and international distributors, CuriosityStream continues to sell direct to consumers with monthly price plans ranging from $2.99 (HD streaming) to $9.99 (4K streaming) and a low-cost annual HD subscription plan of $19.99.

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“As we have traveled the world to meet with cable, satellite, and mobile distributors, it became crystal clear to us that video providers are searching for impactful ways to serve the enormous appetite of their customers for universally-appealing factual content,” CEO Clint Stinchcomb said in a statement.

Stinchcomb said the service’s early success in growing paying subscribers through distributors is attributable to the flexibility it offers affiliates through a ‘partnership fee’ that allows them to use proprietary content to support revenue and sub growth strategies.

The company also announced it has partnered with Millicom for upcoming launches in nine Latin American countries.

Streaming Video, Tax Benefit Up Discovery Q2 Revenue, Profit

Aggressive expansion to over-the-top video distribution across its content portfolio help Discovery Inc. post second-quarter (ended June 30) net income of $947 million, compared with net income of $216 million during the previous-year period.

The bulk of that increase came from a non-cash tax benefit and higher operating revenue. Total revenue increased 1% to $2.88 billion.

Discovery continues to benefit from the $14.6 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive in 2017, home to popular Food Network, HGTV (“Flip or Flop,” and “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines), Travel Channel and DIY Network programming, among others.

In the quarter, Discovery launched nine additional networks on YouTube TV in the U.S. and signed a multi-year live and on demand carriage agreement with fuboTV.

Earlier this year, Discovery and BBC Studios announced a series of agreements for a new 10-year distribution deal, which includes content for a pending global streaming service.

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The company also has a partnership with the PGA European Tour for subscription streaming video service, Golf TV, expanding its content portfolio and move towards becoming the “digital home of golf” around the world.

The wide-ranging agreement includes international multi-platform live rights, in selected territories, to all European Tour events and the next two Ryder Cups.

“We delivered another quarter of strong operating and financial performance with the benefits of the Scripps Networks acquisition flowing through all areas of our global business, while also accelerating our pivot to digital and direct-to-consumer offerings,” CEO David Zaslavsaid in a statement. “With an exceptional team in place, strong top-line performance and a healthy balance sheet, we are confident in our ability to continue executing on our strategic priorities to drive long-term growth and shareholder value.”

Discovery CEO: SVOD Market Turning into ‘Street Fight’

On the heels of WarnerMedia putting a name (HBO Max) to its pending subscription streaming video service, Disney launching branded service as well as expanding Hulu globally, Discovery CEO David Zaslav says “chasing the same ball” (i.e. scripted digital content) with the world’s biggest media companies is not the company’s focus.

Speaking July 10 with CNBC from the Allen & Co. confab in Sun Valley, Idaho, Zaslav contends the bustling SVOD market is turning into a “street fight” — a scenario he believes Discovery has successfully side-stepped.

“[About] 50% to 60% of the content that people consume is not scripted series or scripted movies,” Zaslav said. “For us, it’s home [HGTV], food [Food Network], Discovery, Oprah, crime [ID], Chip and Joanna Gains [‘Fixer Upper’]. We own most of the golf [programming] in the world, most of the cycling. We have almost all [non-scripted] quality content. And we own it everywhere in the world.”

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With Netflix and Hulu expanding non-scripted programming, including documentaries and food-themed reality TV, Zaslav says Discovery’s market hold on food, home and crime-themed shows is not in threat.

“We’re pretty secure in our space,” he said. “People aren’t buying Netflix to watch a home [improvement] show. We think we have something very differentiated and people come to us for it. They come to us for it on all platforms in all languages.”

Yet, much of HGTV, Food Network, ID and Oprah content is consumed through traditional pay-TV channels — distribution under threat by over-the-top video.

Zaslav agrees the traditional linear TV business is in secular decline. But he said Discovery generated about $3 billion in free cash flow in its most-recent fiscal year.

The executive said Discovery dominates the female non-scripted market in the United States, with OTT video businesses targeting golf (outside the U.S.), cycling and natural history.

“We have a low to mid-single digit growth company, having nothing to do with all of the global IP that we own,” he said. “We think it’s sustainable that we can grow low to mid-single for the next several years.”

Zaslav contends streaming movies and TV shows has become commoditized with Showtime Now, HBO Now, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Apple TV all offering similar content.

“That’s why we did Scripps [Networks] acquisition, because we think people that love food are always going to come to food, people that love home are always going to come to home. So, we think that this is an ecosystem that will work together,” Zaslav said.

With Disney buying Fox, Comcast acquiring Sky and AT&T buying Time Warner, Zaslav dismissed suggestions Discovery would have merge with another major media company to remain competitive.

“We’re the largest independent media company,” he said. “We think some of the assets we have that we’re the largest international media company. We’re in 200 countries.

“But in the long run if we’re wrong, then we have the biggest assortment of IP in affinity groups that people love and we’re in every language around the world. We think that we’re going to win either way. We’ll be more valuable.”