While Discovery seems months late to the “plus”-themed launch party for subscription streaming services, its upcoming Discovery Plus does appear to rising up to a promise Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, HBO Max and Peacock weren’t able to fulfill because of pandemic-caused studio shutdowns—that is, a large stable of original shows at launch.
Debuting January 4, Discovery’s $4.99-a-month brand-unifying subscription VOD service will come complete with 1,000 hours of original content, much of it seemingly exclusive to the SVOD service.
That in large part is due to repackaging current and classic shows from Discovery’s portfolio of networks, including HGTV, Food Network, TLC and new partners A&E, the History Channel and Lifetime.
Stay-at-home, self production environments, as well as incorporating easy-to-shoot talking-head interviews with archival content, has given Discovery Plus a leg up over other streaming services faced with the daunting challenge of producing scripted content from scratch.
It’s also saved Discovery plenty of money. In May at an investor event produced by MoffettNathanson, Discovery CEO David Zaslav revealed that the $300,000-$500,000 unscripted budgets for many of the company’s shows decreased due to Covid-19.
"Why are we dragging everyone to a studio?” Zaslav said. “Let's shoot it in a home. The content is dramatic. The cost is dramatically less. We don't have to listen to the production companies about, you know, the high-level shoot. We can do it for much cheaper—some of our content — and get it out, and the cycle can be much quicker.”
So What’s on Tap?
The hit reality series 90 Day Fiancé, which follows couples who have just 90 days to marry each other in order to legally live in the United States, is the gift that keeps on giving. A total of four spinoffs—90 Day Bares All, 90 Day Diaries, 90 Day Journey and The Other Way Strikes Back!—will launch along with Discovery Plus.
While three of the 90 Day spinoffs combine archival material from the original series with new interviews and never-before-scene footage, 90 Day Diaries features completely new content. Shot by cast members themselves, the show documents their day-to-day lives and struggles during the pandemic.
New footage will also be offered via the streaming service’s newly spun off Say Yes to the Dress: In Sickness and In Health. In this iteration of the popular TLC reality show that profiles brides searching for the perfect wedding dress, hosts Randy Fenoli and Hayley Paige help future wives achieve their special day in spite of Covid-19 .
Meanwhile, Food Network’s popular reality cooking competition show, Chopped, has been reworked into Chopped Challenge. In this spinoff, judges Maneet Chauhan, Scott Conant, Amanda Freitag, Marc Murphy, Marcus Samuelsson and Geoffrey Zakarian use their culinary skills to create recipes from three rounds of mystery basket ingredients. Self-shot footage documents the judges competing against the clock.
Amy Schumer’s quarantine cooking series Amy Schumer Learns to Cook is another Food Network show that was reformulated for Discovery Plus. Thirty-minute self-shot episodes feature the comedian and her husband-chef, Chris Fischer, cooking dishes while sheltering in place. The Discovery Plus version of the series—titled Amy Schumer Learns to Cook: Uncensored—appears to be woven together using material left on the cutting room floor.
Another comedian, Kevin Hart, will host Route 66, having shot himself traveling the famous transnational highway to see “what’s going on with America.”
Other celebrities making an appearance on Discovery Plus are Chip and Joanna Gaines. The home improvement couple who hosted HGTV’s Fixer Upper for five seasons, will preview shows from their forthcoming Magnolia Network—a joint venture between the Gaines and Discovery.
The SVOD will provide viewers with a first look at the Fixer Upper revival titled Fixer Upper: Welcome Home. Additional Magnolia titles being offered on Discovery Plus are a cooking show—Table with Joanna Gaines—and a documentary Courage to Run, about Chip Gaines’ decision to train for and complete his first marathon.
Fellow HGTV hit House Hunters, meanwhile, has also been repurposed. In House Hunters: Comedians on Couches Unfiltered, eight comics including Seth Rogen, Whitney Cummings and Margaret Cho deliver commentary on past episodes of the franchise, which follows buyers searching for the right home.
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