Discovery+ to Roll Out in U.K., 11 More Markets Via Vodafone Deal

Discovery CEO David Zaslav
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Discovery CEO David Zaslav

A new carriage deal gives Discovery access to roughly 100 million Vodafone TV, broadband and mobile subscribers, "to which discovery+ can be made available for a promotional period that will vary by market."

Discovery Inc. and mobile phone giant Vodafone have unveiled a new long-term content agreement covering 12 markets that will bring streaming service discovery+, which launches in the U.S. on Monday, to Vodafone customers in the U.K., Germany and other countries across Europe.

The partnership covers Vodafone’s mobile subscribers in the U.K., Germany, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Romania, Portugal, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland and Iceland, as well as TV customers in all these markets except for the U.K. and Turkey.

The deal, financial terms of which weren't disclosed, gives Discovery access to roughly 100 million Vodafone subscribers across Europe, including about 6 million pay TV, and many more broadband and mobile customers, "to which discovery+ can be made available for a promotional period that will vary by market," the companies said. The rollouts in the markets are planned over the course of  2021 and 2022.

Consumers "will be able to watch their favorite content from Discovery’s iconic brands," Eurosport, and a planned streaming joint venture covering the BBC’s natural history collection (except for the U.K.), "all in one place for the first time ever," they added. "At launch, discovery+ will have one of the largest content offerings of any new streaming service, featuring a wide range of global and local content, and original series across popular, passion verticals in which Discovery has category leadership, including lifestyle and relationships; home and food; true crime; paranormal; adventure and natural history; as well as science, tech and the environment, and high-quality documentaries."

Beginning with the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, discovery+ will also become the streaming "Home of the Olympics" in Europe, excluding Russia.

Discovery’s linear TV channels will continue to be available to Vodafone customers in Germany, Italy, Spain, Romania, Portugal, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland and Iceland.

The agreement ensures an initial launch of discovery+ in some markets, while expanding its reach in others. In the U.K., for example, the agreement expands on a previously unveiled discovery+ launch with Comcast-owned pay TV giant Sky, which is offering the streamer to users of its premium service Sky Q for 12 months at no extra cost. The company also has a deal for the streamer in place in Italy with Telecom Italia, which is expected to kick in early this year.

"We are delighted to announce this multi-territory and multi-platform partnership with Europe’s largest mobile and fixed network operator," said Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav. "Vodafone’s vast and deep consumer relationships will provide a powerful engine for discovery+ as together we bring the definitive destination for real-life entertainment to consumers across Europe. Our hybrid agreement with Vodafone advances our broader strategy of expanding our linear distribution relationships to bring our popular content to consumers across more platforms and devices."

Ahmed Essam, chief commercial operations and strategy officer at Vodafone, said the deal "perfectly demonstrates Vodafone’s positioning as one of Europe’s leading video content platforms," adding: "Discovery will be a key part of our entertainment offer, providing a rich choice of content that will enhance Vodafone’s provision of a superior customer experience across its high-quality TV and flexible streaming services."

Kasia Kieli, president & managing director of Discovery EMEA, said: "discovery+ will harness our unique and powerful global and local content offering to serve fans across Europe as we bring the best of real-life entertainment to our passionate audiences. We are very pleased that our relationship with Vodafone continues to grow."

In streaming, just like in traditional pay TV, "distribution matters," Discovery International president and CEO JB Perrette tells THR. "We are in conversations with a number of different partners", both traditional and mobile and other companies, in various international markets for additional distribution deals for discovery+.

Vodafone and similar mobile and technology giants provide a key opportunity in foreign markets, he explains. "As we look to scale as quickly as we can and get the product in as many consumers' hands as possible, the opportunity for these kinds of deals [is huge], particularly internationally, where in a lot of markets traditional pay TV never has gotten above 25-30 percent penetration," Perrette tells THR. "These partnerships can give us access to a user base that is 10 times-plus what our traditional pay TV universe was at a price point that is one-eighth to one-tenth of what the entry price points are in the normal pay TV universe. The opportunity is huge."

And he says early usage trends in Britain and beyond have been positive. "The engagement level is way beyond our expectation even," he says. "Even though true-crime series are proving to be one of the biggest customer acquisition drivers so far, that co-hort of customers is also watching 90 Day Fiancé, is also watching some of our relationships and lifestyle stuff."

Despite the growth of streaming services and increasing competition, Perrette feels good about discovery+ and its outlook. "We are still in the very early days of streaming adoption, … and adoption will continue to be very healthy for a while," he says. "A lot of these other services are led by scripted series and movies, competing in a very dense space where there are obviously already big leaders in Netflix and now Disney+, (Amazon) Prime to a certain degree."

But Discovery's offering "is a compliment to all of those, because we are the only ones dedicated to this real-life entertainment mission and the best of non-scripted content," he adds. "And the price points that we can do it at will always make us a much easier complement, because we don’t need it to be 12, 15, 20 euros a month to make the model work. So we can always provide enormous value. And our content is incredibly sticky and super-serves people."