Discovery, BBC Studios Ink 10-Year Pact for New SVOD Service

Discovery and BBC Studios April 1 announced a series of agreements for a new 10-year distribution deal, which includes content for a pending global streaming service. The deal also involves a development pact for BBC Studios’ genres of natural history, animals, adventure, science, travel, space, history and civilization documentaries.

The new partnership, effective in all territories outside the United Kingdom, Ireland and Greater China, will make Discovery the exclusive global home of BBC natural history programs on SVOD, including the “Planet Earth,” “Blue Planet” and “Life” franchises, as well as future BBC-commissioned series from BBC Studios, following their linear TV transmission.

Discovery also acquired SVOD rights to hundreds of hours of BBC programming across factual genres. All of this content will form one of the pillars of a new global streaming service, which will also include some of Discovery’s programming library and original content created for the service.

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The service will launch by 2020 and will form a key part of Discovery’s growing portfolio of direct-to-consumer services that will also be made available to TV distribution partners for retail.

Separately, the two companies finalized a strategic split in the joint UKTV’s channels business in the U.K. that complements the strategic focus and commercial business of both organizations.

“As the two market leaders in natural history and factual programming, [BBC CEO Tony Hall] and I look forward to working together again – our teams represent over 100 years of combined experience,” David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, said in a statement. “From the planets to the poles, and documenting every species in between, the world has always been part of Discovery’s DNA. It is who we are.”

Study: U.S. SVOD Buyers Average 3.4 Services

Online video subscribers in the United States average 3.4 streaming services and pay an average of $8.53 per month per service, according to a new study.

The nScreenMedia study, “Keep My Customer — Why Consumers Subscribe To, Stay With, Cancel, and Come Back to Online Video Services,” also found that 70% of households in the United States and 40% of U.K. homes have a subscription to at least one streaming video service.

The study was commissioned by Vindicia, an Amdocs company providing business-to-consumer digital services monetization.

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Involuntary cancellation is a problem for the industry, according to the study. These payment failures occur when a credit card problem, such as insufficient funds, results in automatic cancellation of a customer. The study revealed that more than a quarter of U.S. and a third of U.K. online video streamers have had a SVOD service canceled due to a credit card problem. And of those groups, 30% did not return to the service.

“Involuntary cancellations are a huge problem for the SVOD industry, particularly among young subscribers,” said study author Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst at nScreenMedia, in a statement. “Young adults from 18 to 34 years old are twice as likely to have experienced involuntary cancellation in the U.K., and three times more likely in the U.S.”

“For video streaming services, the ability to acquire and retain subscribers is vital to their success,” said Anthony Goonetilleke, group president, media, network and technology, Amdocs, in a statement. “However, streaming services are losing subscribers — and millions of dollars in annual revenue — due to involuntary credit card cancellations. This kind of customer churn is largely preventable. By leveraging the right technology, video streaming providers can recover failed payment transactions and capture revenue that would otherwise be lost, enabling them to better compete in a highly competitive market.”

In terms of overall cancellations, the survey looked at how often people cancel their service and their reasons for doing so. In the United States, 38% of the survey group said they have canceled one or more services in the last year. Of that group, two-thirds said they had canceled one service only, and just one in 10 have canceled three or more services.

Netflix users are slightly less likely than average to have canceled service in the last year, according to the study, while Hulu users are slightly more likely. Amazon Prime Video users are no more or less likely than average.

The top two reasons cited for canceling a video service: people couldn’t find enough content they liked and didn’t find the service a good value for their money.

Previous customers are the best new prospects, as the study found that 33% of U.S. and 25% of U.K. cancellers have been persuaded to sign up for service again.

Discounted subscriptions are an under-exploited opportunity for service providers to win new customers. The survey revealed that a 20% discount for a three-month commitment generated the highest interest level, with 66% of U.S. and 57% of U.K. subscribers saying they were likely or extremely likely to take the offer. Three months is an important milestone, because subscribers that stay this long are much less likely to leave the service. Surprisingly, the study found that offering more than a 20% discount did not result in more interest.

The study also found that free-trial abuse is not a serious problem for online video service providers. While 49% of U.S. and 62% of U.K. online video subscribers have canceled at least one service within the free trial period, only 5% in the U.S. and 2% in the U.K. have canceled within the free-trial period four or more times in the last year.

When it comes to retaining existing subscribers, content is king. The study found that 64% of U.S. subscribers and 55% of U.K. subscribers have been with their longest-tenured service for one year or more. When asked why they stay, respondents said having plenty of interesting content to watch was the top reason. Value for money was a close second place, and ease of finding something good to watch came in third. Interesting original content was the fourth reason, while providing plenty of new shows took the fifth-place spot.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s expanding influence in the VOD market is evident. The study found that one-third of U.K. and U.S. Prime Video subscribers have purchased an add-on video service, with higher income individuals more likely to use Amazon Prime Video and to purchase an add-on. In the United States, the most popular video add-ons are premium services such as HBO, Starz, Showtime and Cinemax. CBS All Access is also very popular. In the United Kingdom, the most popular video add-ons are Eurosport Player, Discovery, ITV Hub+ and FilmBox.

To learn more about the nScreenMedia study or to download a copy, visit here.

Discovery Returns to Profitability Following $15B Scripps Networks Purchase

Discovery Feb. 26 reported fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) net income of $265 million following a net loss of $1.1 billion during the previous-year period. Revenue increased 51% to $2.8 billion from $1.85 billion a year earlier.

Spearheading the turnaround was last March’s $15 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks, including coveted brands HGTV, DIY Network, ID, TLC, Animal Planet and Food Network. Discovery also owns stakes in MotorTrend Group and Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

For the fiscal year, net income reached $594 million compared to a $337 million loss in the previous year. Revenue increased 54% to $10.6 billion from $6.9 billion.

Discovery has also invested hundreds of millions in sports programming in Europe, including Olympics rights and an over-the-top video deal for the PGA European Tour.

It also inked exclusive pay-TV and streaming deals with Chip and Joanna Gaines, the husband and wife team behind the hugely successful “Fixer Upper” franchise, and Christina El Moussa, the prettier half of the now-divorced from “Flip or Flop” husband/co-star Tarek El Moussa.

“2018 was a transformational year for Discovery, highlighted by our operational accomplishments, our strong progress in synergy generation and our overall solid financial performance, as we continued powering people’s passions around the world,” CEO David Zaslav said in a statement. “Discovery is a differentiated global content company, and we are optimistic that we will continue to build on all of our operating momentum to drive additional shareholder value into the future.”




Wildlife Wars: Netflix, Discovery, BBC Bow Competing Releases, Services

Documentaries on wildlife and natural habitats have apparently become a coveted genre in the over-the-top video market.

Media giant Discovery and the BBC reportedly are pooling resources to launch a subscription streaming video service offering subscribers access to their combined wildlife and natural history content, according to The Financial Times, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

The move follows Netflix signing a multiyear deal with James Honeyborne, creator and executive producer of the award-winning documentary series “Blue Planet II,” to produce new nature and science series.

Honeyborne’s BBC work includes the BAFTA-winning “Big Blue Live” and the Emmy-nominated series “Wild New Zealand.” He was also the series producer of “Africa.” Honeyborne, who trained as a biologist, has overseen some 35 films during his time as an executive producer at the BBC’s Natural History Unit.

FT reported that Discovery (which owns HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, ID, TLC and Animal Planet, among others) would own the unnamed streaming service, with the BBC licensing its library of natural history programming, including content presented by David Attenborough.

Indeed, Discovery Feb. 7 announced the commission of a new wildlife conservation documentary from BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit. “The Red List” is the first non-BBC commission for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

The two-hour doc follows the challenges of wildlife conservationists across the globe as they work to compile a comprehensive record of the state of the world’s wildlife.

“The Red List,” run by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, aims to give viewers a glimpse inside the worldwide effort to bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction.

“This third-party commission from Discovery heralds a new dawn for BBC Studios and is a really exciting moment in the history of the BBC,” Mark Linsey, director, BBC Studios, said in a statement.


Discovery Inks Streaming Video Deal with PGA European Tour

Discovery and PGA European Tour Dec. 13 announced a new partnership that will see the media network’s pending subscription streaming video service, Golf TV, expand its 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.

The partnership will bring coverage of the European Tour and Ryder Cup together under Golf TV, launching in January 2019. The SVOD will carry more than 40 European Tour events per year starting in January.

They include:

  • Every Race to Dubaievent throughout the season.
  • All Rolex Seriesevents, including the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Aberdeen Standard investments Scottish Open, BMW PGA Championship, Italian Open, Turkish Airlines Open, Nedbank Golf Challenge and season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
  • All World Golf Championshipsevents, including the Mexico Championship, the Dell Technologies Match Play, the FedEx St. Jude Invitational and HSBC Champions.
  • Golf Sixes and the Hero Challenge.
  • The European Challenge Tourand Staysure Tour.

“Welcoming the European Tour and The Ryder Cup into Golf TV is a significant step in our journey to becoming a premier global destination for golf entertainment,” Alex Kaplan, president and GM, Discovery Golf, said in a statement.

The service will stream live coverage of the next two Ryder Cups from Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, in 2020 and Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, Italy, in 2022 will be available to fans in selected territories.

Golf TV underscores Discovery’s strategy to evolve its brand internationally on the links.

Starting in January, Discovery will hold live European Tour linear and digital rights in markets, including Italy, Romania, Russia, Spain (sublicense agreed with Movistar+), Turkey, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Balkan countries, Eurasia, India, Latin America, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore, among others.

Discovery will focus on developing key aspects of the European Tour digital operation, such as technology, monetization and advertising. The European Tour will continue to provide content and editorial services for the digital platforms, and service its existing news and media clients.

Under the agreement, Discovery will also have the ability to sublicense TV and digital coverage, in the markets for which it holds exclusive rights, as part of a broader strategy to grow viewership of the European Tour.

These markets include Albania, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain (sublicense agreed with Movistar+), Turkey and Ukraine.

“To become the true ‘digital home of golf,’ we know we must think differently and go further than anything that has been done before,” said Kaplan.

Indeed, Golf TV last month inked an exclusive global content partnership with 14-time major champion Tiger Woods. The platform will collaborate with Woods on a wide range of content creation opportunities, including deep-dive instruction to help players improve their game, and exclusive access into Woods’ tournament preparation. The unique content will offer fans an authentic and regular look into the life, mind and performance of the game’s ultimate icon.



Sling TV Offering Discovery Network Channels

Dish Network-owned Sling TV Nov. 28 announced it has expanded online TV service to include nine Discovery channels on its domestic and Spanish-language platforms.

Discovery Channel, Investigation Discovery (ID) and TLC are now available in the $25 “Sling Blue” service; Investigation Discovery (ID) and MotorTrend (formerly Velocity) are now available in the “Sling Orange” service ($40 when combined).

American Heroes Channel and Destination America are now available in “Heartland Extra” add-on; Science Channel is now available in “News Extra” add-on. Discovery en Español and Discovery Familia are now available in “Best of Spanish TV” base or add-on Extras.

“With the addition of some Discovery channels in our base service and others in our genre-based add-on Extras, we continue to deliver on our consumer promise of providing the most choice and flexibility in programming options,” Warren Schlichting, president of Sling TV, said in a statement.

Discovery Channel features shows like “Gold Rush” and “Alaska: The Last Frontier”. TLC showcases lives of reality TV characters, including “90 Day Fiancé” and “The Little Couple”.

Investigation Discovery (ID) features documentaries and series such as “Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda” and “People Magazine Investigates”.

MotorTrend showcases the people and the stories behind the cars. Sling Orange subscribers can now watch shows like “Wheeler Dealers”.

The following channels are available in Heartland Extra or News Extras (each $5 per month with a subscription to Sling Orange and/or Sling Blue):

American Heroes Channel showcases military battles, people and pivotal moments in time. The channel features series such as, “World War II: Witness to War.”

Destination America is the only network to celebrate the people, places, and stories of the United States with shows like “Ghost Brothers.”

Science Channel immerses viewers into possibilities of science, from string theory and futuristic cities to accidental discoveries and outrageous inventions. Subscribers of News Extras can view shows like “Mythical Beasts” on Science Channel.

The following channels are available in Best of Spanish TV standalone service ($10/month) or add-on ($5/month when combined with Sling Orange, Sling Blue or any other Spanish-language regional service):

Discovery en Español provides Spanish-language programming focusing on story telling across genres, including adventure, ingenuity, natural history, investigation and current affairs. Best of Spanish TV customers can now watch programs like “Mexicanicos,” “Clandestino” and “Alaska: Hombres Primitivos.”

Discovery Familia is a Spanish-language network dedicated to Hispanic women and the things that matter in their lives. During the day, the Discovery Kids block provides a safe environment for children with entertaining programming, and in the evening, the channel offers programming for women, focusing on topics such as home décor, food, health, beauty and family.

Discovery Familia features shows like “Vestido de Novia,” “Los Busby” and “Remodelación en Pareja.”

“This partnership with Sling TV is another positive step towards ensuring our brands are reaching our fans no matter where they are watching,” said Eric Phillips, president of affiliate distribution at Discovery.



Tiger Woods, Discovery Partner for Golf TV Streaming Video Service

Fresh of the heels of golf’s first-ever pay-per-view match, Discovery and Tiger Woods have inked a “strategic partnership” that will have golf’s infamous legend participate with the network’s pending Golf TV subscription video-on-demand service.

Starting in January, “Golf TV powered by PGA Tour” will collaborate with Woods on a wide range of programming, content creation and storytelling opportunities that it claims will showcase an “authentic and regular look” into the life, mind and performance of the game’s “ultimate” icon.

“I’ve been watching Discovery and [CEO] David Zaslav build up a global sports platform with Eurosport, the Olympics and the launch of Golf TV … so I think they’re the perfect partner to help grow the game,” Woods said in a statement. “They’re global, they get sports and know how to build new, younger and big audiences.”

While Woods lost to Phil Mickelson on the Black Friday $9 million “The Match” PPV event in Las Vegas, his resume as an 80-time PGA Tour winner and 14-time Major champion apparently supplants a reputation that was turned upside down in 2009 following multiple allegations of marital infidelity, sexual addiction and a very public divorce.

The scandal saw Woods’ standing and performance on the links as the No. 1 golfer in the world freefall into oblivion. Woods appeared to resurrect his personal life with a high-profile romance with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn – a relationship that ended in 2015 with pair blaming their “hectic lives” for the breakup. Last May, Woods was cited for DUI, an arrest the golfer attributed to prescription painkillers.

Regardless, Woods and Golf TV are collaborating to develop weekly practice and instructional videos, “exclusive” access into Woods’ preparation routines;behind-the-scenes access at PGA Tour events, and post-round commentary.

Golf TV, which is launching outside the United States, will present more than 2,000 hours of live action annually as well as a wide range of premium content on-demand, featuring tournament highlights across all devices. Live coverage of the PGA Tour will be extensive and include The Players Championship, the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the Presidents Cup.

“Our long-term partnership with Tiger reflects our broader ambition as we roll-out the service over the coming years, seeking to grow Golf TV into a true ecosystem for all things golf: watching, learning and playing,” said Alex Kaplan, GM, Discovery Golf.

Pluto TV Adds Discovery Content

Ad-supported online TV platform Pluto TV has inked a non-exclusive licensing deal with Discovery for channels such as Discovery Channel, HGTV and Food Network, Animal Planet, ID, Discovery Life, Science Channel, and TLC, among others.

“Discovery is a renowned leader with premier programming that inspires and entertains all types of audiences. We are excited to introduce Discovery’s award-winning content to our viewers,” Amy Kuessner, SVP content partnerships, Pluto TV, said in a statement.

Indeed, connected TV video plays increased 145%, while viewing hours increased 103% in the third quarter, according to data from digital measurement firm Conviva.

Online TV platforms such as Sling TV, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, Spectrum TV Plus, PlayStation Vue, Pluto TV and Fubo TV helped mushroom video plays 292%, including 212% increase in viewing hours from the previous-year period.

For Discovery, the Pluto deal follows similar arrangements signed in September with Dish Networks’ Sling TV and Hulu with Live TV.

“Having our world-class Discovery content as part of Pluto’s offering reinforces Discovery’s commitment to reach all viewers across all screens, platforms and devices,” said Gabriel Sauerhoff, SVP of digital distribution at Discovery.


Hulu and Discovery Ink New Distribution Agreement

Discovery and Hulu have announced a distribution agreement that will extend Discovery’s portfolio brands to Hulu’s on-demand and live TV subscription streaming services.

The multi-year agreement increases Hulu’s offering of top Discovery programming to nearly 4,000 episodes of popular shows, including “Deadliest Catch,” “MythBusters,” “Say Yes to the Dress,” “Naked and Afraid,” “Property Brothers,” “Gold Rush,” “Street Outlaws,” “Chopped,” “Chopped Jr.,” “Fixer Upper,” “House Hunters” and “House Hunters International,” available outside of Discovery’s networks exclusively to Hulu across all of its subscription plans.

The deal will also bring five additional Discovery networks, including Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Motor Trend, the rebranded Velocity network and Animal Planet, to Hulu’s live television plan, Hulu With Live TV. The networks join HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel, which have been available on the service since its launch through a previous agreement with Scripps Networks Interactive, now owned by Discovery. The five additional channels will be available to stream live beginning in December.

“At Discovery, we are committed to bringing our portfolio of high-quality, safe family friendly brands and content to viewers across every screen, service and device around the world,” said Eric Phillips, president of affiliate distribution at Discovery, in a statement.  “Our new agreement with Hulu affirms the strength of our brands and their value to viewers in a marketplace with an increasing array of options.”

“As the only streaming service offering a complete television experience, Hulu continues to strike strategic, efficient deals with top brands that bring extraordinary value to all of our subscribers,” said Lisa Holme, VP of content acquisition, and Reagan Feeney, VP of network partnerships, at Hulu in a statement. “Discovery’s brand is synonymous with high-quality unscripted entertainment that TV fans love, which is why we are excited to bring their entire portfolio to our platform, across all of our subscription plans.”

Concurrent with the Discovery partnership, Hulu reached a licensing agreement with OWN — which is part of the Discovery Networks family — to bring four of the network’s top-rated scripted series exclusively to Hulu. All past episodes of Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and the Have Nots,” “If Loving You is Wrong,” “The Paynes” and “Love Thy Neighbor” are now available to stream for the first time, only on Hulu. They join the complete library of OWN series “Queen Sugar” from Ava DuVernay and Warner Horizon.

Discovery Channel Looking to Bow Netflix/Amazon Prime Video Competitor in Germany

With Netflix and Amazon Prime Video carving up much of the burgeoning over-the-top video ecosystem globally among themselves, Discovery Inc. June 25 announced it is partnering with German pay-TV service ProSiebenSat.1 to launch a branded online service in the country.

Despite being Europe’s No. 1 economy, Germany (and France) has been slow to adopt OTT video, including subscription VOD. That trend is changing. SVOD revenue in Germany is projected to reach $664 million this year; $763 million by 2022 – with user penetration topping 12%.

Discovery (whose properties include Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, Turbo/Velocity, Animal Planet, and Science Channel, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the U.S., Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport)and ProSieben say their OTT service (launching in 2019) will be “pioneering,” offering ad-supported and SVOD platforms featuring local and Hollywood content – and live sports.

With a goal of 10 million subscribers in the first two years, the service will employ 200 people and hopes to include major German TV broadcasters RTL, ARD and ZDF as well.

“This is an exciting next step in our strategy of reaching more viewers on more screens as the global leader in real life entertainment and international sports,” Discovery CEO David Zaslav said in a statement. “Together with ProSiebenSat.1, we are building a world class streaming service to nourish super fans in one of our most important international markets, while also creating a new model for the future for viewers to enjoy their favorite content.”

Since 2017, ProSiebenSat.1 and Discovery have offered joint content via online platform 7TV, both as live streams and through extensive media libraries.

Also included in the new service will be Maxdome (founded in 2006), one of the largest on-demand video stores in Germany with more than 50,000 titles. The platform offers a wide variety of feature films, series, comedy shows, sports, music and cartoons – with exclusive titles and series such as the latest season of “Grey’s Anatomy,” and moviesStar Trek – Into Darkness and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, among others. 

“All our efforts are focused on understanding what viewers want and building the best, most user-friendly product for German audiences,” said Alexandar Vassilev, CEO of 7TV.“We have a fast-growing team with experts from around the world and can’t wait to show our platform and services in the first half 2019.”

Discovery’s move into SVOD in Germany comes as Sony Pictures Television is entering the Dutch OTT video market for the first time.

The studio is launching Film1, a SVOD service featuring 300 movies, including Blade Runner 2049Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Baby Driver, among others.

“We take pride in securing the latest and best film content for our Dutch audience, and this new direct to your screen service complements our partnerships with pay-TV operators and delivers a new way for people to access our top-quality content,” Kate Marsh, EVP, Western Europe, International Networks at Sony Pictures Television, said in a statement.