Execs have privately been referring to the platform as Discovery+, though that name has not yet been confirmed. It is expected to prominently feature many of the company’s most popular brands and networks, including Discovery, TLC and HGTV.
The announcement caps a year in which many of the biggest cable networks, and their parent companies, have made bold moves to expand their brands into the streaming space as consumers continue cutting the cord in ever-increasing numbers. That behavior has only been accelerated by the pandemic, as many of these strategy shifts were in the works prior to March’s shutdown.
Among the cable networks’ most notable pushes into streaming this year was ViacomCBS bulking up its CBS All Access streaming service in July. That move came ahead of a larger overhaul planned for early next year, when the service will be rebranded as Paramount+—adding 3,500 episodes from networks like BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, including all prior seasons of Nickelodeon’s hit cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants.
In March, FX teamed with Disney corporate sibling Hulu to create FX on Hulu. The branded hub on the Hulu platform features several exclusive shows created by the FX team, next-day access to all original episodes that air on FX/FXX and the majority of the network’s library.
Meanwhile, AMC Networks launched a new OTT offering, AMC+. That offering features ad-free programming across AMC Networks’ entertainment networks, several of the company’s niche streaming services (Shudder, Sundance Now and IFC Films Unlimited), select AMC library shows (including all seven seasons of Mad Men) and access to the live linear feeds of AMC, IFC, Sundance TV and BBC America.
Elsewhere, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal both rolled out major organizational overhauls to put their respective new streaming services (HBO Max and Peacock) front and center, and place the same execs in charge of programming for both linear and streaming. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar cited “the pandemic’s economic pressures and acceleration of direct-to-consumer streaming adoption” in explaining his August overhaul. That decision included an expanded role for HBO programming president Casey Bloys, who now also oversees content for HBO Max, TNT, TBS and truTV.
In the same week as WarnerMedia’s restructuring, NBCUniversal had its own revamp. That strategy unified its entertainment segment and led to the October hire of former Warner Bros. TV president Susan Rovner, who now heads up entertainment content for all NBCU platforms, including Peacock, as chairman, entertainment content of NBCUniversal television and streaming.
“These are all pretty much necessary shifts that are happening that reflect changing consumer behavior,” said Jed Meyer, managing director, North America of independent media and marketing consultancy Ebiquity, told Adweek last month. “The way content is being distributed now and in the future is going to continue to change and evolve, and their businesses have to evolve as well.”
Even the Hallmark Channel has built up a solid streaming toehold: last week, parent company Crown Media Family Networks said that its SVOD service, Hallmark Movies Now, has more than 1 million customers.
Promising early returns
While it’s far too early to determine whether WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal’s reorganizations will pay off, FX and AMC both have promising early returns for their respective streaming pushes this year.