If you or one the people in your household watch House Hunters, you’ll know what I’m about to say. The networks owned by Discovery, Inc. have developed a serious case of Discovery+ promotion syndrome. Whether you’re watching Discovery, HGTV, Destination America, or any of their other offerings, you can’t help but be deluged with commercials touting the new Discovery+ streaming service. And when I say deluged, I mean it. Ads for the new streamer routinely take up 25% of the screen on popular shows.
Why did this happen?
I’m not going to claim to have any insider information but I can imagine it went like this.
DIRECTV and other pay-TV companies routinely replaced commercials on Discovery Networks shows with their own. This ramped up in 2017 when DIRECTV rolled out a new ad platform.
Sensing a loss of revenue, folks at Discovery, Inc. looked for a way to get money straight from consumers and show commercials that couldn’t be replaced.
At some point, lawyers from Discovery, Inc. and AT&T sat down to negotiate a new deal for carriage. Discovery wanted more money, and probably didn’t get it.
Discovery, Inc. created Discovery+ with the goal of launching all their new shows exclusively on the streamer.
Early promotion for the service was so successful, that Discovery, Inc. kept it up. They used both traditional commercials and overlays on live TV.
This caused people like me to come close to a stress-induced coronary from watching too many commercials for the same thing.
OK the last part is a bit speculative. In fact it’s all speculative but at least items 1 through 5 could possibly be how it happened.
The sad state of Discovery-owned channels
I’m sad to say that the twenty channels of Discovery, Inc — which include popular choices like Discovery Channel, HGTV, and Motor Trend — are sad shells of their former selves. There isn’t a lot of new content, save for the roughly 25,000 episodes of House Hunters produced every week. These channels seem to exist now only to provide minimal entertainment while hawking Discovery+ subscriptions. Almost all new content has moved over to the streaming service and if you want it, you’ll either have to wait years or you’ll have to pony up and stream it.
You can say that this is just the evolution of the industry. I might even agree with you. You can say that Discovery, Inc. is just giving people what they want. There are more people than ever who don’t subscribe to pay TV at all, and these people want Discovery content. You can even point to similar launches from Disney, Paramount, and HBO as proof that people want exclusive content on their streaming services.
All of this ignores the short-sighted nature of Discovery’s plan.
DIRECTV won’t have to take revenge
People, almost universally, don’t like commercials. They don’t like distractions when they’re watching. These gigantic overlays distract from the show you’re watching and they’re annoying. People don’t like to be annoyed.
With less and less new content on Discovery’s channels, and with more and more of the screen covered up, the ratings are bound to drop. DIRECTV attorneys won’t have to take “revenge” in order to give Discovery, Inc. its just desserts. They’ll just make a lower offer the next time the channels come up for a new contract. For the most part, the price paid for any pay-TV channel depends on its value. Sometimes it’s pure ratings, sometimes it’s a case where a lot of people would leave if they didn’t get a channel.
Either way, it’s hard to see Discovery’s live-TV fanbase going up or becoming more devout. In the short term, they might go over to Discovery+. Sooner or later the cost of that new content will mean streaming prices will go up, and people will dump the service.
Without even needing to work at it, DIRECTV will win the battle. They’ll pay less for Discovery content, because the ratings are lower. This gamble on streaming won’t pay off, because eventually people will just become tired of these tiny nuisance charges for streaming services they don’t use. And then, I imagine the day when Discovery’s last remaining new program ends with Adam Savage (host of Mythbusters) simply looking at the camera and saying, “There’s your problem.”
Or we can get some sanity now
Another option would be for Discovery, Inc. to put a little more new content back on pay-TV, cut back on the gigantic ad overlays, and maybe things can carry on for a while longer. If not, Discovery’s management might just be on the hunt for a house of their own. It won’t be a newer, bigger one, I’ll tell ya that.