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Upfronts 2017: Discovery Takes TLC OTT, Adds Olympic Snapchat Channel

Discovery Communications says it is adding new content, new ways for viewers to watch, and more ways for advertisers to connect with those viewers.

The company is also creating a cross-platform metric to help advertisers measure cross-platform audiences because it says Nielsen's cross-platform product isn't ready.

Discovery, which went into the direct-to-consumer over-the-top space last year, is launching a "Say Yes" wedding app tied to TLC's Say Yes to the Dress franchise, according to CEO David Zaslav, speaking at a Tuesday morning event recreating the company's upfront presentation for reporters.

The app, which will cost $3.99 a month on Amazon, will have more than 500 hours of programming available. It joins a true crime app from Investigation Discovery and a paranormal app called Destination Unknown that have been available via Amazon.

Discovery, which holds the European rights to the Olympics through its Eurosport unit, is also introducing a new Snapchat channel that will tell short-form stories about Olympic athletes leading up to the Winter Games in South Korea.

The content is being created by its digital video unit Group Nine.

The new product joins the Go video apps that Discovery has created for each of its channels. Discovery is creating original content, starting with TLC Go, which will stream an exclusive brand extension of its 90 Day Fiancé franchise.

90 Day Fiancé: What Now? will allow fans to catch up with their favorite couples from past seasons as they move on to the next stage of their lives, facing big decisions and challenges. The series will premiere on TLC Go in Summer 2017

Zaslav said that the apps should contribute 1%—possibly 2%—ad sales growth for Discovery in 2017.

Paul Guyardo, Discovery's chief commercial officer, said that streams on the Discovery Go apps were growing at 22% a month, with sessions lasting 65 minutes on average. He added that the ads are non-skippable, which contributes to a 98% completion rate for ads. Discovery is using Moat to help track streaming audiences and create post-campaign analyses.

Guyardo said 49% of the streaming audience was in the 18-34-year-old age group. The apps also offer stacked episodes of series, which means viewers can catch up with those series starting with the first episode of season one.

Because Discovery owns its content, it can work with advertisers to create branded content, for example providing hair care and skin care products to former contestants of Naked and Afraid.

Guyardo also said that clients interested in virtual reality, including Gillette, Dunkin Donuts and Marriott, were working with the programmers to create branded experiences.

Discovery has also created Snapchat extensions for shows like Mythbusters and Shark Week that advertisers can be a part of.

"This is a terrific way to extend reach by buying inventory in these made for mobile digital extensions," he said. It is also the only way to coordinate linear and mobile campaigns, he added.

Ben Price, Discovery's new president for advertising sales, added that at one time, programming was the product Discovery sold to advertisers. "Now we're talking to agencies differently, talking about how we can drive their client's business."

The new products mean a need for cross-platform measurement, and Price said that Nielsen's Total Content Ratings are an "incomplete solution" now.

Discovery says it can provide advertisers with a measurement of unduplicated cross-platform audiences by combining numbers from comScore, Symphony and its own internal numbers.

Discovery is offering to guarantee campaigns based on that metric, or on more specific audience targets determined by data.

Nielsen responded to Price's comments.

"Nielsen has delivered on every core tenet of its total audience measurement product strategy. Nielsen Total Content Ratings is in the market today and each client has flexibility to adopt Nielsen's Total Audience measurement system, which fluidly reports content and ad exposures regardless of ad model, as they see fit. It's this flexibility that the market both demands and sees as a challenge," a Nielsen spokesman said.

"Selling against one’s own data and using it to stand out against the competition is one thing, such as performance based, niche audiences like sports enthusiasts who eat fast food - but it becomes complicated when you try and guarantee against it using the same data, because it is not a third party independent measurement. It is like grading your own homework," the spokesman added.

Nielsen had planned to release a syndicated version of its Total Content Ratings in March. Instead, there has been a limited rollout that enables individual networks to examine only their own data and choose which platforms are included in the metric before media buyers get a look.

The content ratings are separate from commercial ratings, such as C3 and C7, which are likely to remain the currency for buying and selling ads during the 2017-18 upfront.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.