Discovery+ SVOD Launches on The Roku Channel

Roku and Warner Bros. Discovery May 10 announced that nonfiction subscription streaming service Discovery+ has launched on The Roku Channel. Available in the U.S., users can now subscribe to both the ad-free ($6.99) and ad-supported ($4.99) versions directly through The Roku Channel.

Discovery+ offers 70,000 episodes of current and classic shows from a 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.

Users of The Roku Channel can now browse Discovery+ content before signing up, and enjoy a free seven-day trial, no extra apps or other fees required. Once registered, users can stream content from within The Roku Channel.

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“The launch of Discovery+ on The Roku Channel makes it easy for our users to access this compelling content, while enabling Discovery to reach incremental audiences,” Rob Holmes, VP of programming at Roku, said in a statement.

Launched on Jan. 4, 2021, Discovery+ ended the most-recent fiscal period with 24 million subscribers.

“We’re pleased to deepen our relationship with Roku, a valued partner, and expand access of Discovery+ on the Roku platform,” said Gabriel Sauerhoff, SVP of digital distribution and commercial partnerships for Warner. Bros. Discovery.

With the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, it remains to be seen how Warner Bros. Discovery melds Discovery+ with HBO Max.

“We look forward to further extending the reach of our exceptional library of lifestyle and real-life content to millions of Roku streamers and providing them increased optionality in how they access Discovery+,” Sauerhoff said.

Warner Bros. Discovery Touts 24 Million Discovery+ Streaming Subscribers; 100 Million With HBO, HBO Max

Warner Bros. Discovery April 26 reported 24 million first-quarter (ended March 31) direct-to-consumer subscribers, which largely includes the Discovery+ streaming service, up 2 million subs since the end of Q4 on Dec. 31, 2021.

When including 76.8 million HBO and HBO Max subscribers, the company now has more than 100 million SVOD subs worldwide.

WBD, which is the new corporate moniker following the April 8 closing of the $43 billion asset combination between WarnerMedia and Discovery Inc., did not include WarnerMedia results in its first-ever quarterly fiscal report.

The Discovery+ streaming platform helped WBD up U.S. distribution revenue 11% to $886 million from $796 million in the prior-year period. Internationally, the SVOD, along with foreign properties Eurosport.com and Global Cycling Network, helped up distribution revenue 4% to $536 million, from $514 million in the prior-year period.

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When including advertising revenue, U.S. Networks revenue increased 7% to more than $1.9 billion from $1.8 billion primarily due to higher pricing and the continued monetization of content offerings on the company’s next generation initiatives, partially offset by secular declines in the pay-TV ecosystem and lower overall ratings.

In the company’s first fiscal call, CEO David Zaslav said ongoing internal restructuring would continue to put a focus on monetizing “everything,” not rolling back the theatrical window on Warner Bros. Pictures movies, and not outspending the competition (i.e., Netflix) on content.

“When you open a movie in theaters, it has a whole stream of monetization,” Zaslav said on the call. “More importantly, it’s marketed. It builds a brand so when it does go to a streaming service there’s a view that [the movie] has a higher quality that benefits the streaming service.”

The CEO said, “each and every decision” would be made through “the lens of analyzing asset value,” as the new company looks to cut $3 billion in synergistic cost savings, which includes layoffs.

Indeed, one of the first fiscal casualties was the shuttering of the CNN+ streaming service just weeks after its launch, including investment of more than $300 million. CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said the decision was “exhibit A” in restructuring, adding that “2022 [would] undoubtedly be a messy year.”

Parrot: Netflix Share of Streaming Originals Dropped in Q1 as Competition Increased

Netflix’s demand share of streaming originals once again hit new lows in Q1 2022, sitting at 45.2% globally (down from 45.4% in Q4 2021) and 42.4% in the United States (down from 43.6% in Q4 2021), according to Parrot Analytics.

Meanwhile HBO Max, Paramount+ and Disney+ — all SVODs backed by traditional media conglomerates — saw significant gains in the most recent quarter. 
 
Global demand for original content from all of Netflix’s competitors grew 80.8% between Q1 2020 and Q1 2022, more than triple the 25.5% growth for Netflix originals over the same time, according to Parrot.
 

From Q1 2020 to Q4 2021, Netflix’s global subscribers grew from roughly 183 million to 222 million, a 21.3% increase in total subscribers. This is remarkably similar to the 22.8% growth in total demand global for Netflix originals from Q1 2020 to Q4 2021, showing the key link between demand for original content and subscriber growth, according to Parrot.

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The gap between the growth in demand for Netflix’s competitors’ original content and its own is further evidenced in Netflix’s market share dropping dramatically in the past two years — from 55.7% to 45.2% globally, and from 52.4% to 42.2% in the United States between Q1 2020 and Q1 2022.

Netflix’s global demand share for streaming originals is down from 50.2% in Q1 2021 and 55.7% in Q1 2020. Disney+ and HBO Max have grown from a combined 6.7% share in Q2 2020 (the first quarter they were both available) to 15.5% in Q1 2022. That 8.8 percentage point gain from these Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery owned streamers accounts for the vast majority of the 9.8 percentage point drop that Netflix has taken over the same time period, showing how much these traditional media companies are directly eating into Netflix’s streaming dominance, according to Parrot.

Netflix remains the dominant service for original content demand with its 45.2% global share, which is still larger than that of its six closest competitors combined — Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+, Hulu and Paramount+, which make up a total of 42.4% share globally. That said, its competitors are catching up — in Q2 2020 (HBO Max’s launch quarter), Netflix’s six closest competitors combined for 33.4% global demand share, while Netflix stood as 55%. HBO Max (6.7%) jumped ahead of Apple TV+ (6%) this quarter, as demand for “Ted Lasso” faded while Max launched a trio of hit originals targeting significantly different audience sectors with “Station Eleven,” “Peacemaker” and “Our Flag Means Death,” according to Parrot.

Netflix had a steeper decline with U.S. consumers, dropping from 43.6% in Q4 2021 to 42.4% in Q1 2022. Netflix’s U.S. share was 48.1% in Q1 2021 and 52.4% in Q1 2020. Paramount+ and HBO Max had very strong quarters in the United States, and accounted for much of Netflix’s losses in demand share in Q1 2022.  HBO Max grew from 6.2% to 6.9%, and overtook Apple TV+ in the category with a hits such as “Our Flag Means Death,” “Peacemaker” and “Station Eleven.” Paramount+ grew from 4.4% to 5% on the back of “Yellowstone” spin-off “1883,” as well as a new season of “Star Trek: Picard.”

Netflix is doing well in on-platform demand share, especially considering a plurality of demand for content available on Hulu is non-exclusive licensed content, which has less of an impact on subscriber growth and retention, according to Parrot. While there is currently a major drop from second to third place in HBO Max on-platform demand with U.S. audiences, a combination of HBO Max and Discovery+, which Warner Bros. Discovery leadership has repeatedly emphasized is in the works, would make up 18.3% share, just 0.4 percentage points behind Netflix. “This imminent platform combination represents a strong competitor to Netflix for second place in on-platform demand share, showing how much of a direct threat Warner Bros. Discovery poses to Netflix’s grasp on the entertainment habits of tens of millions of American consumers,” according to Parrot.

Disney+’s “The Book of Boba Fett” narrowly beat out Netflix’s “The Witcher,” both of which debuted in late December 2021, as the most globally in-demand series in Q1 2022. Netflix did account for four of the top 10 streaming originals with global audiences for the quarter, tied with Disney+, which also had four. While that is a strong showing, it still represents a significant decline from recent times. Just last quarter Netflix had four of the top five global originals, and in Q1 2021 Netflix accounted for seven of the top 10 originals worldwide. Once again, competition from traditional media — Disney+ in this case — is cutting into Netflix’s core areas of streaming dominance, according to Parrot.

Vizio Bows Promos on Apple TV+, Discovery+ and Fubo TV Subs

Vizio has announced exclusive subscription discounts on Apple TV+, Discovery+ and FubuTV.

The Apple TV+ promo is a three-month trial for new subscribers. The offer will be presented on the Vizio home screen through promotional banners with the opportunity to start redemption from the home screen. The offer is available April 25 through May 30.

New Discovery+ subscribers will get access to an exclusive 30-day promotional trial following the purchase and registration of a new Vizio TV. The promo offer will be shared to the new owner’s email address with a link to redeem the trial. The offer is available April 22 through Oct. 22.

New FuboTV subscribers can get 20% off the first month of their subscription until April 15. Vizio smart-TV owners can access the offer through the Vizio home screen.

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“Vizio’s mission is to bring the best possible entertainment experience to the millions of people that use our products every day. Working with our content partners to extend discounts on their subscription services so that Vizio audiences can access premium programming helps us deliver on that mission,” Liz Buhn, senior director of partner marketing at Vizio, said in a statement. 

Discovery, WarnerMedia Complete $43 Billion Merger

Discovery and WarnerMedia April 8 announced the completion of their $43 billion merger, a union that creates a streaming-focused media giant that brings together a leading Hollywood movie studio (Warner Bros. Pictures) with a top producer of documentary and other non-fiction programming.

Warner Bros. Discovery, as the new company is known, will be headed by Discovery CEO David Zaslov and other Discovery executives. It begins trading on the Nasdaq with the start of trading on April 11, under the new ticker symbol “WBD.”

The new company combines WarnerMedia’s premium entertainment, sports and news assets with Discovery’s leading non-fiction and international entertainment and sports businesses, including Discovery Channel, Discovery+, Warner Bros. Entertainment, CNN, CNN+, DC, Eurosport, HBO, HBO Max, HGTV, Food Network, Investigation Discovery, TLC, TNT, TBS, truTV, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, New Line Cinema, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies and others.

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“With our collective assets and diversified business model, Warner Bros. Discovery offers the most differentiated and complete portfolio of content across film, television and streaming,” Zaslav said in a statement. “We are confident that we can bring more choice to consumers around the globe while fostering creativity and creating value for shareholders. I can’t wait for both teams to come together to make Warner Bros. Discovery the best place for impactful storytelling.”

AT&T CEO John Stankey said the sale for operational control of the former WarnerMedia company would help the telecom giant reduce its debt and enable it to focus on wireless technology, including 5G. AT&T retains majority ownership in the new company.

“We are at the dawn of a new era in connectivity,” Stankey said.

Under the agreement, which was structured as a Reverse Morris Trust transaction, at close AT&T received $40.4 billion in cash and WarnerMedia’s retention of certain debt. Additionally, shareholders of AT&T received 0.241917 shares of WBD for each share of AT&T common stock they held at close. As a result, AT&T shareholders received 1.7 billion shares of WBD, representing 71% of WBD shares on a fully diluted basis. Discovery’s existing shareholders own the remainder of the new company. In addition to their new shares of WBD common stock, AT&T shareholders continue to hold the same number of shares of AT&T common stock they held immediately prior to close.

Discovery+ Announces April Lineup

SVOD service Discovery+ has announced its April lineup.

“Serving the Hamptons,” due April 7, takes viewers into one of the most exclusive enclaves in the world, while showcasing all the drama in the lives of the young restaurant staff at Southampton’s “it” destination for dining, 75 Main, as they hook up, argue and work together.

In “All on the Table,” coming April 20, hopeful restaurateurs deal with the stress and pressure of preparing a preview dinner for potential investors, presenting both the food and the total restaurant experience in hopes of securing funding for their dream venture.

Season five of “The Repair Shop,” due April 9, is about a workshop in the British countryside where broken, battered and beloved artifacts, antiques and curios are brought back to life.

“High Design With Kim Myles,” available April 13, stars HGTV alum, interior designer and self-proclaimed cannabis connoisseur Kim Myles. The series follows Myles, who spent two years working in the cannabis industry, as she transforms marijuana dispensaries from California to Maine that are in need of major makeovers. She also explores cannabis in all its shapes and sizes as she takes field trips to learn how to make cannabis soaps, lotions, sodas, food items and much more. 

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“Curb Your Carbon,” due April 21 and narrated by Ryan Reynolds, features humor, crazy stunts and animations revealing the simple and effective ways we can all help fight climate change in an easy-to-understand way.

Dear Mr. Brody, available April 28, is a documentary about Michael Brody Jr., a 21-year-old hippie-millionaire who decided to give away his fortune to anyone in need. Countless struggling Americans overwhelmed Brody with personal letters responding to his extraordinary offer, making him an instant celebrity in the process.

Man Without a Heart, due April 29, is a documentary thriller that immerses viewers in one of the most enigmatic unsolved cases of the last decade, taking them on a journey through Sweden, Spain and England to explore the death of a Spanish man disguised as an impossible suicide.

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Unraveled: Once a Killer available April 22, is the next installment of the “Unraveled” anthology. Alexis Linkletter and Billy Jensen investigate the most elusive criminal to ever strike — the “one and done killer.” These mysterious offenders commit a brutal murder without sufficient evidence, never kill again, and disappear back into society for decades, leaving detectives and criminal profilers with an unsolvable case. With a companion podcast releasing in advance of the two-hour special, Unraveled exposes the limitations of criminal profiling and reveals a new investigative technique that could change the way investigators interpret cold cases.

“Radford Builds,” coming April 25 following the premiere of “Radford Returns,” takes viewers on an exclusive deep dive further into this world, delving into the technical and emotional demands of building a supercar. Viewers experience intimate conversations with classic Lotus team members Jenson Button and Clive Chapman, and ride along Jenson’s test drives of Lotus cars both old and new. Chip Foose, an original designer of the Lotus Type 62, gives viewers a master class of the car building craft, showcasing the detailed work of creating a car from foam and clay with master mechanic Ant Anstead. 

“Handcrafted Hotels,” coming April 15, follows hoteliers in cities and towns across the country that uniquely capture the nostalgia, charm and character of their new hometowns. In this season, hotelier Ben Weprin and his team of artists, craftspeople and designers with Graduate Hotels create custom stays that celebrate the university spirit and provide guests with a nostalgic experience.

“Little Big World,” due April 22, places viewers within the scenario of the world in your own backyard. The immersion moves through plants and flowers in the garden, over counter tops and in-between household products and through pipes and various small openings.

AT&T Names Accountant Samuel Di Piazza Chairman of Warner Bros. Discovery

AT&T may have sold away operational control of the pending Warner Bros. Discovery media company, but it still retains majority ownership of the erstwhile WarnerMedia unit. As a result, the telecom March 16 named the seven board members, including chairman, who will represent the company on the new 13-member board upon U.S. regulatory approval of the $43 billion transaction.

Samuel Di Piazza

Discovery, which has operational control of Warner Bros. Discovery via CEO David Zaslav, will appoint the other six board members.

The seven board members include three AT&T directors who will resign their seats when the merger is completed. They include Samuel Di Piazza, former executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers, who will be chairman of Warner Bros. Discovery; Debra Lee, former chair and CEO of BET Networks; and Geoffrey Yang, founding partner and managing director of Redpoint Ventures.

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Joining them are Li Haslett Chen (founder/CEO of Narrativ); Richard Fisher (former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas); Fazal Merchant (senior adviser to Sixth Street Partners); and Paul Price (most recently chief financial officer of Macy’s).

“These respected leaders bring a wealth of experience in finance, technology, media and entertainment, international trade, venture capital, and digital and direct-to-consumer platforms that is vitally important to the future of Warner Bros. Discovery,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said in a statement.

Discovery CFO: Streaming Services HBO Max, Discovery+ Will Be Combined

Subscription streaming video platforms HBO Max and Discovery+ will be combined following the official consummation of Discovery’s $43 billion minority stake, majority control deal for WarnerMedia with current parent AT&T, Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels told an investor group.

Speaking March 14 at the Deutsche Bank 30th Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, Wiedenfels appeared to answer the long-running question about how Discovery would accommodate the two streaming services under the new Warner Bros. Discovery media company moniker.

Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels

With the merger set to be completed in the second quarter of this year, Wiedenfels said the goal was to meld the two platforms with a combined paid subscriber base of around 100 million into one service. In the meantime, the services would likely be bundled as management figures out the best way to make the combination happen.

“One of the most important items here is that we believe in a combined product as opposed to a bundle,” Wiedenfels said. “The question is, in order to get to that point and do it in a way that’s actually a great user experience for our subscribers, that’s going to take some time. Again, that’s nothing that’s going to happen in weeks — hopefully not in years, but in several months — and we will start working on an interim solution in the meantime.”

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Wiedenfels, who will transition to CFO of the new company, joins Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who will oversee Warner Bros. Discovery operations. Current WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is expected to transition out of the company.

Wiedenfels contends Discovery+, which costs $4.99 per month with ads, $6.99 without ads, and HBO Max, which cost $9.99 with ads, $14.99 without ads, would initially offer a single sign-in for subscribers with each service offering select content on the other’s platform. He did not disclose any new pricing for the combined services.

“In order to get to that point and do it in a way that’s actually a great user experience for our subscribers, that’s going to take some time,” Wiedenfels said. “Building one very, very strong combined direct-to-consumer product and platform, that’s going to take a while.”

Discovery Shareholders Approve WarnerMedia Acquisition

Discovery March 11 announced that its shareholders have approved various matters relating to its $43 billion acquisition of WarnerMedia from AT&T to create the new media company Warner Bros. Discovery. The transaction affords Discovery minority ownership and majority control of WarnerMedia assets, which include Warner Bros. Pictures, Turner and HBO, including subscription streaming service HBO Max.

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At the special meeting of Discovery shareholder held earlier today (March 11), based on estimated preliminary voting results, stockholders voted to approve the charter amendment proposals, share issuance proposal and the advisory (non-binding) compensation proposal. The approvals mark the completion of one of the few remaining closing conditions for the merger.  These preliminary voting results will be updated through a regulatory filing to reflect the final certification of results from Discovery’s Inspector of Election.

The acquisition is expected to close early in the second quarter of 2022, subject to other customary closing conditions. The boards of directors of both AT&T and Discovery have now approved the transaction.

WarnerMedia, Discovery Cease All Business Operations in Russia

Warner Bros. Pictures nixing distribution of The Batman in Russia was just the tip of the iceberg. Parent WarnerMedia is reportedly shuttering all business operations in the country (effective today, March 9) in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing military invasion into neighboring Ukraine.

“Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, WarnerMedia is pausing all new business in Russia,” CEO Jason Kilar wrote in a staff memo. “This includes ceasing broadcast of our channels, halting all new content licensing with Russian entities and pausing our planned theatrical and games releases.”

Separately, Discovery, which is acquiring operational control of WarnerMedia, halted operations of 15 broadcast channels it owns and operates through a joint venture with Russia’s National Media Group.

In addition to joining the global outrage to Putin’s unprovoked military aggression, Discovery and WarnerMedia have joined a growing group of Western media that has ceased operations in Russia due to new government-mandated press restrictions.

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On March 4, Russia’s parliament unanimously voted to punish media organizations reporting news not approved by the Kremlin. Dissemination of so-called “fake news” could be met with a sentence up to 15 years in jail. The new law is aimed at halting news critical of the Ukraine invasion. Putin has called his invasion a “special military operation,” and Russian occupying troops “peacekeepers.”

The censorship law, which is on top of government rules mandating Western media distributors carry 20 Russian government channels, prompted Netflix last week to halt operations in the country.