With YouTube TV Deal, Discovery CEO David Zaslav Doubles Down on Streaming

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April 10, 2019

By Spencer Feingold

Discovery will bring its most popular channels to YouTube TV in a multi-year distribution deal that represents a major step in the company’s aggressive effort to showcase its programming on streaming platforms.

“We’ve been at this for the last five years,” David Zaslav, Discovery’s president and CEO, told Cheddar's Jon Steinberg in an interview Wednesday. “We’ve really been trying to change our company to be a sustainable, long-term growth company.”

Starting Wednesday, YouTube TV’s live and on-demand subscription service will stream eight of Discovery’s most popular brands: the Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, and MotorTrend.

The Oprah Winfrey Network, which Discovery owns a majority stake in, will begin streaming by the end of the year.

“We really earned it,” Zaslav said. "We've worked hard on our channels. We have the top four channels in America for women. We have the No. 1 channel for African American women with OWN. We have the top channel for men — Discovery."

He said the company's embrace of streaming has been part of a sustained effort to get closer to consumers. “It’s about terminal value, which is a fancy way of saying it’s about long-term growth.” he said.

The deal brings some of TV viewers' favorite shows, including Discovery Channel’s "Deadliest Catch," HGTV’s "Property Brothers," and TLC’s "Say Yes to the Dress," to another premier skinny bundle. Discovery content is already on Hulu and Sling.

Since its founding in 1985, Discovery ($DISCA) has grown to be the third-largest media corporation in the United States, delivering over 8,000 hours of programming a year. The company broadcasts in over 200 countries and territories and in 50 languages.

The company has largely focuses on nonfiction entertainment around popular science, technology, history, and reality television.

“Ultimately people tune in to hear stories from people. They want to see people and they want to hear their stories and they want to be inspired,” Zaslav said.

Discovery also dominates the world of golf. In 2018, the network singed a 12-year contract with the PGA for the exclusive rights to show live tournaments around the world. Discovery also recently launched GOLFTV, a PGA-branded video streaming service.

“Nobody is in our lane,” Zaslav said. “So the question is, can we make our lane global and transactional?”

The deal with YouTube comes less than two weeks after Discovery signed a 10-year agreement with the BBC for the British broadcaster's library of documentaries and natural history programs including "Planet Earth," "Blue Planet," and "Walking with Dinosaurs." That multi-million dollar deal also allows Discovery to create spin-off content with BBC Studios' material for linear and streaming distribution.

Zaslav said that the network's strategy of forgoing scripted content — an area dominated by competitors like Netflix, HBO, and Showtime — has been successful.

"That’s going to be a tough street fight ー we’re glad we’re not in it," he said. "That’s the really in vogue place to be and we’re everywhere else."

With Discovery, YouTube TV increased its streaming membership price from $40 to $50 a month. The platform now includes over 70 networks and three concurrent streams of content available across users' devices.

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