Since debuting $5-a-month SVOD service Discovery Plus in the U.S. on Jan. 4, Discovery said it has now gathered more than 11 million total paying direct-to-consumer subscribers globally. That’s up from 5.2 million subs in December.
Speaking to investors during Monday’s fourth-quarter earnings report, Discovery Chairman and CEO David Zaslav said that the subscription streaming service is “on pace to be at 12 million by the end of the month.”
The gain well surpassed Wall Street expectations. Analysts had predicted that Discovery Plus would report between 9 million and 10.5 million subscribers by the end of the first quarter. In December, Discovery's top executives stated that they expected the new streaming service to have an addressable domestic market of at least 70 million homes and 400 million households globally.
The 11 million subscribers are across Discovery’s entire portfolio, which includes the company’s international direct-to-consumer products. But Zaslav made clear that of the new subscribers base, the “vast majority” are paying Discovery Plus customers. The company’s execs didn’t provide forecast targets for how many Discovery Plus subs it expects by end of year.
While the $5-a-month service with limited advertising was a late addition to the subscription streaming services, Discovery Plus’ large stable of original programming at launch made it a legit contender amongst services including Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, HBO Max and Peacock, which due to the pandemic could not offer the wide array of original content.
Zaslav described 2021 as a “unique time” for the company.
“As we are working hard to solidify our core linear business, in which we continue to meaningfully outperform, we are repositioning the company against a massive new opportunity in streaming,” Zaslav told media investment analysts during Monday's call. “But we already see very positive signals and signs that taken together with the durability of our core business will nicely position the company a sustainable long term growth. That is our mission and we are laser focused on delivering.”
Meanwhile internationally Zaslav said that Discovery is “hard at work transitioning” the streaming service formerly branded Dplay, which offered live sports and non-fiction programming direct to consumers, to Discovery Plus. In 2015, Discovery agreed to pay over $1 billion for rights to broadcast the four Olympic Games between 2018 and 2024 in Europe.
Zaslav said that Discovery Plus will be the streaming home of the games in Europe. Subscribers will have “access to every minute, every medal and every hero live and on demand.”
He went on to explain that a more extensive international rollout of Discovery Plus will happen in the back half of the year.
Discovery’s net income fell 43% to $271 million, or 42 cents a share, down from $476 million year to year. Revenue fell flat at $2.866 million.
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