Discovery+ reveals 11 million subs, CEO David Zaslav discusses channels & viewing

Discovery has revealed its recently launched streamer Discovery+ has secured 11 million subscribers since its launch, but CEO David Zaslav said network deals remain a “great model.”

The SVOD first launched in the UK in November before a wider rollout to the US in January. Discovery claimed that the streamer launched with the most content of any new streaming service with 55,000 episodes from 2,500 shows from brands like HGTV and Food Network.

Announcing the company’s first quarterly results since the launch, Zaslav said that Discovery+ had surpassed 11 million total paying subscribers globally and is on course to be at 12 million by the end of February.

The CEO said that this initial success “underscores the value of the investments we’ve made in content, beloved personalities and brands with huge consumer appeal, supported by industry-leading DTC capabilities.”

Viewing preferences & channels

During a call with analysts, Zaslav also offered some insight into what people have been viewing, claiming that the “amount of time people have been spending” on the service as “terrific”.

“In terms of the content that we’re moving around, we’re really experimenting. And the interesting thing is, the way our product works so far is it’s very different than Disney or Netflix. We have this massive library. And when we say what’s trending, if you took all the top shows that are trending and put them all together, it represents less than 10% of what people are watching.”

Zaslav also looked again to firmly differentiate Discovery+ from rivals, adding that his streamer’s “diversity of content” would be a key factor for success.

David Zaslav

“When you talk about scripted series and scripted movies, where you have eight people playing that game, they’re going there for a scripted series… or they’re going there for a movie.

“For us, since we’ve pulled together that other 50%, they are watching Discovery stuff. They are going in and watching Prince William and an environmental documentary. And other people are going in there and watching the fact that we have the largest crime library or paranormal or food fans.”

Zaslav also touched on the future of Discovery’s global channels business, which some have suggested its DTC streamer could consume.

“We’re moving things around, but we still have a full commitment to the existing bundle. We are the bundle. I mean, it’s basically news, sports and us. And a lot of the other players are now in – they are in repeat mode. And for us, we have a real equitable argument.

I was talking with some of our operators over the weekend about the amount of original content that we’re still doing and the amount of viewership that we’re getting on the platform. And so we think we could do both, and we’re experimenting moving things between the two.”

Zaslav added that Discovery+ was a “terrific feeder”, with existing cable customers then moving into “buying the [streaming] product.”

Overall, Zaslav said that Discovery finished the 2020 financial year “with strong operating momentum and great command and control across our global businesses, uniquely positioning us to balance our core and next generation businesses.”

The company ended the quarter with total revenues of $2.9bn, which is described as ‘flat’ compared to the same quarter for the previous year. Total 2020 revenues dropped by 4% to $10.7bn.

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