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Discovery Enters the ‘Plus’ Wars with Jan. 4 U.S. Streaming Launch

Discovery
(Image credit: Discovery)

Discovery has taken the veil off its new subscription streaming service, which goes by the now somewhat pedestrian moniker, Discovery Plus (or, discovery+ as the company stylistically prefers).

Having already launched in the UK and Ireland, India, the Nordics, Italy and the Netherlands, Discovery Plus will debut in the U.S. on Jan. 4, priced at $4.99 for a base version with advertising, $6.99 a month for an iteration with no ads. 

Discovery, perhaps best known for its annual summer "Shark Week" programming event, is touting the size of its nonfiction library, billing Discovery Plus as the streaming service with the largest ever content library at launch with 55,000 episodes from 2,500 current and classic shows from Discovery’s portfolio of networks, including HGTV, Food Network, TLC, ID, OWN, Travel Channel, Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. The platform will also include content from the BBC Natural History Collection.  

As part of a new content partnership, Discovery Plus will bring together for the first time the top nonfiction content from A&E, The History Channel and Lifetime with the Discovery brand portfolio.

In the U.S., Discovery Plus will include a slate of new original shows from storytellers including Chip and Joanna Gaines; Sir David Attenborough; David Schwimmer; Will Packer and Kevin Hart; Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, among others. 

The platform will also feature Discovery’s 90 Day Fiancé franchise, with new episodes and spinoffs. 

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Discovery said the new streaming platform will draw three times as much ad revenue than its linear networks, even though it will load only around five minutes of ads per hour for the base $4.99-a-month version. Discovery is ambitiously projecting an audience of 70 million U.S. users, and 300 million globally, to eventually show addressable advertising. 

“We have been working methodically the past two years to bring all of our strategic advantages to the launch of Discovery Plus, including distribution and advertising partnerships around the world, a world-class offering of quality brands, authentic personalities and the largest content library at launch, as well a broad slate of exclusive programming,” said David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Inc., in an earlier statement. 

The launch is being underpinned by a partnership with Verizon, which will offer the service for free to its customers. At launch, new and existing Verizon wireless customers with a "Play More" or "Get More Unlimited" plan will get 12 months of Discovery Plus via Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G Home Internet and/or Fios services; customers with Start or Do More Unlimited plans will receive six months of streaming on Verizon.

New Verizon customers who sign up for Verizon 5G Home Internet or Fios Gigabit Connection can receive 12 months of Discovery Plus on Verizon. New Fios customers may also be eligible for three to six months depending on their plan. 

Discovery is launching its new SVOD service in 25 countries. Across Europe, distribution will be aided by Sky in the UK and Ireland, as well as TIM in Italy. Beyond Europe, Discovery Plus will also roll out in Latin American markets, including Brazil, and in parts of Asia in 2021. 

Domestically, beyond the Verizon partnership, the Discovery release is notably unspecific about app and distribution support—we don’t yet know if Roku and Amazon Fire TV will support the platform. The company does say, however, that its service "will be available across major platforms, including connected TVs, web, mobile and tablets."

Inaugural advertising partners include Boston Beer Company, Kraft, Lowe’s and Toyota, "with more partners to be announced soon," Discovery said.

Discovery reported third-quarter revenue of $2.56 billion, down 4% from the year-ago period, with ratings and ad dollars across its linear networks continuing to decline. 

"With Discovery Plus, we are seizing the global opportunity to be the world’s definitive product for unscripted storytelling, providing households and mobile consumers a distinct, clear and differentiated offering across valuable and enduring lifestyle and real world verticals," Zaslav added. "We believe Discovery Plus is the perfect complement to every streaming portfolio and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with Verizon to bring this incredible content to their customer base."