Discovery UK & Nordics Boss James Gibbons Teases Approach To BT Sport JV, Talks Originals, WarnerMedia Merger & Ad Lite

EXCLUSIVE: Discovery UK & Nordics Boss James Gibbons has talked up the potential BT Sport JV as being an effective marketing tool for the media company’s deep content catalog, allowing subs to “come for the sport, stay for the rest.”

Unveiled earlier this month and expected to launch later this year pending regulatory approval, Gibbons didn’t give much away about the surprise JV, which came just days after DAZN was expected to complete on a BT Sport deal, but he teased the approach.

“There are viewers who come for the sport itself and there’s a second type of viewer who comes for the sport and stays on for the rest of the content,” he said, speaking after Discovery’s full-year results showed 22M subs to two-year-old streamer Discovery+.

“Both are important and when you put them together, the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.”

Discovery+’s coverage of the Winter Olympics has just wound down and this year was unique in that the streamer aired both the Winter and Summer Olympics, with more than 50% of people who watched the Olympics via Discovery+ going on to view its other content, added Gibbons.

He said the UK, one of the first markets in which Discovery+ launched, had made a “really meaningful contribution” to the 22M subs figure, although wouldn’t disclose UK numbers.

Over the past year, UK originals have increased 50% and, while Gibbons said this will slow down now that Discovery+ is established, he flagged its importance in driving the subs uptake.

Gibbons cited high-profile shows such as Richard Hammond’s Workshop, the reboot of MTV romcom series Faking It! and upcoming entertainment format Zodiac Island (working title).

Also on the horizon is the mega Discovery/WarnerMedia merger and Gibbons said his division will “take stock of the situation” with original content once it has gone through.

Discovery+ and WarnerMedia SVoD HBO Max could be folded together, for example, which would have ramifications for international originals, although HBO Max can’t launch in the UK for several years until HBO’s deal with Sky runs down.

“The merger hasn’t closed yet so we are still operating a regular D2C business and as part of that will continue to invest in original content,” said Gibbons.

With a raft of streamers pushing into Europe, Gibbons stressed Discovery+’s position as a “differentiated service,” which nullifies the negative impact of “streamer stacking.”

“You don’t swap out Discovery+ for a general entertainment service, the two have different needs,” he explained. “We hope to be within that stacking choice for as many people as possible and with Warner we will bring a broader proposition.”

Discovery+ is also gearing up for the launch of an Ad-Lite version at £3.99 ($5.30) per month, which Gibbons believes will target a “new cohort” of potential subs.

At the same time, he pointed to continued linear growth, with distribution and ad revenue increasing for the core business.

“It’s challenging to grow everything together as you try to develop new parts of your business so it’s good to note we’ve managed to grow a new SVoD on top of linear.”

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