One month after launch, Discovery+ has around 12 million paid subscribers, a number that exceeds their initial estimates. But it has something else too, something that most of its competitors lack: a strong brand identity that piggybacks off Discovery’s linear brand identity, creating an instantly identifiable package for millions of viewers. If you’re a fan of Discovery’s array of channels on linear TV, you’re going to find a lot to like on Discovery+, including a whole bunch of familiar faces.
The symbiotic relationship created between the linear brands and the streaming brands gives Discovery an unrivaled advantage as it ramps up Discovery+, given that its competitors all seem to have turned their backs on their linear lineups.
Send In The Clones. The HBO Clones
While not completely identical, the other Flixes have largely staked their fortunes on original programming in the old HBO mold, the sort of programming that award shows and critics are easily besotted by.
For many viewers this is truly a second golden age, with so much good programming it’s hard to keep track of it all.
Which is the problem in a nutshell.
Because most of the Flixes feature HBO-like original programming, the show or movie your friend was raving about could be on any of them–often as not, you’ll need to refer to Google to figure out which service it’s playing on.
Whereas if your friend is raving about Bobby and Giada in Italy, you’ll know exactly where to find it.
Familiarity Helps Fight Churn
The problem with having the same style of programming as most of your competitors–even if it is really, really good programming–is that it leads to churn.
Viewers will binge a series or two on your service and then decide it’s time to move on to binge the equally as interesting shows on another service. Which means it’s likely they’ll let their month-to-month subscription on your service lapse until they’re ready to watch one of your originals again.
Having popular library content like The Office or Friends is useful in terms of upping the number of hours current subscribers will spend on your service, but it’s doubtful anyone is going to continue to pay just to be able to rewatch the episode of The Office where Michael takes everyone on a booze cruise for the tenth time. (And if they’re really that committed, there’s a good chance someone’s uploaded a decent quality version to YouTube.)
So it all comes down to originals and that’s where Discovery+ has an edge: subscribers are not going to find that type of programming elsewhere and so they’re much less likely to stray.
That’s the benefit of having viewers who are fans of the network and its vision, not just fans of a particular show and the showrunner’s vision.
Then there’s the marketing angle.
It’s easy for Discovery to market Discovery+ on its linear channels because the streaming service promises more of the same, both in terms of content and in terms of stars. There’s also the fact that many of Discovery’s stars, like Chip and Joanna Gaines and Guy Fieri have large followings on social media along with the sort of robust retail presence that can also be used to turn potential viewers on to Discovery+.
By keeping their linear programming separate and distinct from their streaming programming, the other networks are cutting off this angle, much to their ultimate detriment. They are going to need to bridge the gap at some point in the not too distant future, but the longer they maintain two distinct content ecosystems, the harder it will be to combine them into a single brand.
Giving Discovery an even greater advantage than it has right now.