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The logical place to be is free

It launched its OTT platform this summer and there may be an Apple app in the pipeline, but for global pay-TV giant Discovery launching more free-to-air channels is still key to growing its audience share.

During the morning keynote ‘Programming with Global Ambition’, Discovery Networks International President JB Perrette stressed that the company – which has enjoyed double-digit growth in audience share for the last seven years – was “not in the business of warehousing content”.

He added: “Pay-TV is not growing as fast because of capacity and desire and we have a lot of content which in some territories still has no outlet – so the logical place to be is free.”

Perrette argued that as long as they used content strategically and collaborated with client distributors on windowing opportunities, it was possible for Discovery to target both pay-TV and free-to-air markets.

Discovery’s acquistion of Eurosport and its $1bn ‘smash and grab’ purchase of pan-European rights to the Olympic Games – outbidding the BBC and EBU – is the strongest sign yet of its desire to become an international player across free-to-air, pay and OTT.

At the conference Perrette alluded to a potential licensing deal for the BBC and other free-to-air players. “We have respect for legacy coverage. We are aware that there are national and IOC commitments that need to be available on free-to-air,” he said.

While Perrette wouldn’t be drawn on formats for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, he hinted that it could be the “virtual reality games” adding that it was ”in the DNA of the company to innovate.”

Discovery will also be pushing Olympic content across its OTT platform DPlay and Eurosport Player. Perrette told delegates that he is aiming to grow its video on demand services from 200,000 to 1m subscribers over the next two years.