House of cars photo

Discovery Turns Its Focus to Digital

by Marc Berman  |  03.28.2017

There is much more to a broadcaster these days than just its linear channel was the message from David Zaslav, president and chief executive officer of Discovery Communications in the company’s upfront presentation in New York City. Over the course of his presentation, Zaslav highlighted  Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, ID, Science Channel, Velocity and OWN, and European television sports network Eurosport.

“When I got to Discovery just over 10 years ago we had almost 10 channels in 150 countries, but the real challenge was how to become a great creative company and a great commercial company,” Zaslav said. “We went from share here in the U.S. from 4 percent to now almost 13 percent, our channels are growing again, and our focus is on monetizing our content across the world. One particular initiative is our investment over the next five years of $7 billion in sports in Europe.”

“It’s about changing the culture of our company,” he added. “As we continue to pivot from a company that is about channels to a company that is about IP, we have to figure out how to create IP that can be on every single mobile device.” 

In addition to citing linear ratings growth across the majority of networks at Discovery — which seems to be a theme of note across all the cable networks presenting during this upfront thus far, despite the continued fractionalization — Discovery also boasted about its excessive number of streams per month, its status as the number-one provider of video and news on Facebook, and its three Snapchat channels, which will be joined by a fourth in the upcoming weeks that’s focused on the 2018 Olympics.

“We are learning from the ability to tell stories in one-minute snippets,” said Zaslav, who announced the launch on Amazon over the next week of a wedding app called Say Yes. The app will feature over 500 hours of content, and a Go App, which can be downloaded for free and is expected to bring in additional advertising revenue outside of the traditional linear model.

“We are starting to do original content on the Go platform,” he said. “TLC, for example, will create a special 90 Day Fiancé spinoff, one of our most popular shows on TLC.”

Zaslav also spoke about Project C.A.T., Discovery’s partnership with World Wildlife Fund to help protect wild tigers.

New Programming Initiatives

Discovery Channel will revive game show Cash Cab, which originally aired on the cable net from 2005-12. New unscripted series will include Cold Case Alaska, focused on the Alaska Bureau of Investigation; Darkness, in which three strangers per episode will endure days buried underground; and Devil’s Canyon, home to the largest creekside gold deposit the world has ever seen. House of Cars, a new entry for the Motor Monday series, will follow life at a garage called “The Doghouse.”

Discovery also will shine a spotlight on NASA and the vital role it has to play moving forward into the coming decades in NASA: 60 Years and Beyond. In the scripted department is Manhunt: Unabomber, which follows the FBI’s hunt for the deadliest serial bomber in history.

In addition to a revival of Trading Spaces, TLC will offer docuseries Hair Goddess, set at a Staten Island, New York salon; The Healer, which follows a man who can seemingly cure individuals of their ailments; spinoff, 90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days, and This Is Life Live, a four-day event following the personal journeys of families about to experience an extraordinary circumstance on live television.  

ID, meanwhile, has greenlit six-part series The Von Bulow Affair, which showcases the sensational murder trial of the 1980s. Animal Planet will offer Animal House, featuring a team of designers as they convert drab spaces into dream living arrangements for homeowners and their pets; Rescue Dog to Super Dog, where shelter dogs become companions to someone in need; My Fat Pet; and Cat Meets Dog

Science Channel will feature a revival of Mythbusters and prank-themed Scijinks from The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki. And Texas Metal on Velocity will follow the team at Ekstensive Metal Works as they create some of the biggest, flashiest, most creative builds anywhere.  

Lastly, OWN has ordered two new non-scripted series – Released, which will feature first-person narratives of formerly incarcerated men and women as they walk out of the prison doors for the first time to restart their lives; and Checking Inn, which follows former Essence Magazine editor-in-chief Monique Greenwood as she pursues her lifelong dream of running her own bed and breakfast.  

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