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Future of TV Brand Strategy Discovery Communications

Discovery+ on ‘radical’ shift to social media marketing


By Hannah Bowler | Senior Reporter

February 16, 2022 | 5 min read

Discovery is “radically changing the way it advertises” by shifting to social media marketing to grow Discovery+ subscribers, according to UK and Nordics boss James Gibbons.

James Gibbons says the Australian Open was a high performer for Discovery+

James Gibbons says the Australian Open was a high performer for Discovery+

Gibbons has invested in the space to transform Discovery’s marketing capabilities and help it reach a younger cohort of consumers. He says: “The whole digital and performance marketing piece is new to the business and it’s a skill and resource we’ve added on to our business, and we’ve been building that capability since launch.

“There is a constant optimization of how to reach those younger audiences.”

Along with Facebook and Instagram, Discovery is building on its TikTok presence. “We’ve never used TikTok before, but you can’t reach that cohort without being active in that space,” he says.

@discovery Coach Snoop and Coach Martha agree on ... almost everything #PuppyBowl #gameday @snoopdogg @Martha Stewart ♬ original sound - Discovery

Discovery entered the crowded SVOD market in January 2021 with Discovery+ envisaged as an additive product to its linear channel portfolio. As a result of the move, he says it is already pulling in audiences 20 years younger than its exiting viewership.

With this comes a new set of marketing challenges. “When it comes to marketing and communications for Discovery+, we have to take a bespoke approach,” Gibbons says.

Marketing for Discovery’s streamer is primarily digital to bring consumers directly into the service within one or two clicks.

Converting sports fans to subscribers

Discovery uses its sports offering as a major marketing tool for Discovery+, leveraging its impressive roster of event rights to convert sports fans into subscribers.

Two back-to-back Olympic Games and a much-talked-about Australian Open proved to be an “amazing awareness driver” for the service, Gibbons says. “The Olympics is a fantastic marketing event because there is something for the whole family,” he adds, along with commenting that Discovery was pleased by how the Australian Open performed.

Gibbons explains that to convert a sports fan to a subscriber, Discovery uses viewer data to find patterns between specific sports and genres from its entertainment offering. For example, during the Tokyo Games, Discovery found equestrian fans liked a certain type of entertainment show, so Discovery could surface those titles to attract other equestrian audiences.

In short, it’s driving fans of specific events deeper into the + service, with contextual advertising pushing shows they are likely to like. Sports could be set to become even more of a subscriber driver as Discovery closes in on a deal with BT Sports to establish a joint venture.

Introduction of ‘ad-lite’

From March 16 Discovery+ in the UK and Ireland will introduce an ‘ad-lite’ option to its service costing £3.99/ €4.99 per month. The decision was taken to replicate Discovery US’s ad-light system after UK-based research revealed 75% of Discovery+ users would be open to seeing ads for a lower price point.

“This ad-light area is targeted at SVOD subscribers who are willing to pay for quality video,” Gibbons says. He highlights the challenge of SVOD stacking, claiming it’s not feasible for consumers to have all the services they want. “If you are service number three or four on consumers’ lists it’s worthwhile to offer a more affordable option to complete in that space,” Gibbons adds.

Discovery UK and Ireland’s move toward ad-light follows the pivot from NBC-owned streamer Peacock to push its ad-supported tier after research revealed 80% of consumers prefer a more affordable ad-supported option.

Future of TV Brand Strategy Discovery Communications

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