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Discovery Getting Closer To U.S. DTC Service; CEO David Zaslav Calls It “SUV” Of Brands, Characters Vs “Sportscars” Like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+

Jill Goldsmith

Discovery Inc. CEO said the company is close to announcing a broad, new direct-to-consumer service that encompass all its brands and characters, will work with distribution partners and may or may or may not include advertising. CEO David Zaslav, in a conference call post quarterly earnings, promised more details soon.

He called the product “a new SUV” and a “differentiated service” with “large, fresh content” and promised to share details in the very near future.

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Wall Streeters have been asking Zaslav about the company’s own OTT offering every quarter as others are rolled out and this is the most definitive he’s been. The market wasn’t impressed with the stock down nearly 3% in early trading.

Zaslav said the product will be different from others out there and a good add on for consumers with its focus on its brands like DIY and cooking verus glitzier scripted series and films.

“It will be useful every day all the time. Dependable all the time and your friends and all the characters that you love fit into this new product, this new SUV… It will be a terrific companion.”

“We’ve got a lane. It’s almost like that lane is ours,” he said, extending the automotive metaphor. The biggest players like Netflix, Amazon and most recently Disney+ “did the hard work behaviorally to get people to pay for content, and gestationally we are now it the third or fourth inning,” he said. “Effectively, they have built a road and they have great sports cars, scripted series.”

The company’s U.S. properties span Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, the upcoming multi-platform joint venture with Chip and Joanna Gaines called Magnolia Network, and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

TLC ratings hit all time highs last quarter. Zaslav said shelter at home trends have highlighted distinctive advantages that separate Discovery from our peers with genres that are “relevant and durable” and short production cycles that allow for quick content development.  Zaslav said Discovery has renewed four new contracts over the first half, with Comcast, Charter and Cox in the U.S. and Sky in the U.K. He continues to insist that it’s underpaid by distributors and advertisers given consumer engagement with its brands.

“The good new for us is that our content is hugely overperforming. The not so good news for us is that our content is cheap.”

Discovery has held up well with U.S. ad revenue falling 14% last quarter, above expectations. Zaslav said April was the trough and the market has been steadily improving.

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