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Discovery CEO Calls Ad-Supported Version of Platform a ‘Breakout Hit’

Jeff Kotuby

The year’s newest major streaming service might have a breakout hit on its hands in the form of its ad-supported tier. On Discovery’s Q1 2021 earnings call, founder David Zaslav spoke glowingly about discovery+ and the success it’s had since its launch back in January of this year. Among the biggest surprises, outside of the service itself, is just how successful the “ad-lite” tier has been for Discovery.

Zaslav admitted he was surprised by the support for the “ad-lite” tier, saying, “We really thought people are used to commercials, they’re not going to want any.” Fans are likely used to these shows with commercials anyway, using the opportunity to prepare snacks or check their phones. “We look at Ad-Lite as kind of a breakout hit,” Zaslav said. “And as we get bigger, it’s continuing to grow.”

Grow it has, as discovery+ announced it reached the 13 million subscriber mark as of today, adding 10 million of those subscribers in 2021 alone (Discovery operated another standalone streaming service prior to the launch of discovery+, hence those numbers from prior to the platform’s 2021 launch.) While speaking with CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Zaslav said the service could see even more growth, adding “we continue to expand the reach of discovery+ with recent launches on Comcast Xfinity [Flex] and Amazon Prime Video Channels.”

While discovery+ was, at first, unpopular with fans of shows like “90 Day Fiance,” “Ghost Adventures,” and “Say Yes to the Dress,” among others, it’s obvious that fans have followed their beloved franchises to discovery+ but aren’t necessarily watching the platform’s original content.

Reiterating a point he made earlier this year, Zaslov again said that the top shows are only driving about 10 percent of discovery+’s watch hours, with many going to shows that originated on their linear platforms. “Our top original shows and top shows from our channels are only generating about 10% of the viewership,” Zaslav said. “We have a very long-tail library about the size of Netflix, and people are spending a lot of time with it.”

The service’s leadership revealed that users who turn on discovery+ tend to watch more than three hours per day.

With so much diverse content on its platform (with more seemingly on the way) discovery+ is carving out a unique niche in the streaming space.

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