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Discovery Sports looks to boost streaming subscriptions amid Olympic coverage

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Discovery Sports looks to boost streaming subscriptions amid Olympic coverage

Discovery transacted its Olympic ad deals against the company's total video measurement, which integrates linear, digital and social viewing.

Most sub-licensing pacts with European broadcasters are already in place for the 2022 Winter Olympics, and some advertisers are creating narratives that bridge the seven months between the Tokyo and Beijing Games.

Discovery is ahead of its projections to be cash-positive after completing coverage of its four-Olympics cycle.

Discovery Inc. is gearing up for expansive, multiplatform coverage of the pandemic-rescheduled Tokyo Summer Games across 50 European nations under its $1.4 billion rights deal with the International Olympic Committee, which covers four Olympics from 2018 through 2024. The Tokyo Games will be the first to air on new streaming service Discovery+, which launched this year, though the company noted boosts to other streaming services that ran content as part of Discovery's inaugural pan-European rights pact.

S&P Global Market Intelligence caught up with Discovery Sports President Andrew Georgiou before he flew to Japan and discussed the company's Olympic content and carriage plans, as well as how the COVID-19 pandemic and related safety concerns impacted ad sales. An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

S&P Global Market Intelligence: What's the content game plan?

SNL Image

Andrew Georgiou, president
of Discovery Sports

Source: Discovery

Andrew Georgiou: Between 3,500 to 4,000 live and unique hours of content across linear, free-to-air, digital and streaming with Eurosport and Discovery+.

That includes sub-licensing deals with national broadcasters?

Yes, but in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, we are the free-to-air broadcaster.

How much is available on Discovery+ and your pan-European streaming service Eurosport?

All of it. At this point, Discovery+ has launched in seven European nations: the four Nordic countries, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Italy. Eurosport is in other markets until Discovery+ launches.

We have really creative campaigns for Discovery+ in those markets [where the service is available]. It varies by market, but there are introductory offers in which we give a taste, and then if you like what you see, you pay to carry on.

Is total video measurement the ad sales currency this time around?

Yes. We're going to look at linear ratings, but there is so much digital and social content that we want to know how many people are connected to the Olympics from the different platforms.

Every brand is looking to a total solutions package as we can move them to cable, digital and social. We have deals with YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat that create tentacles that bring users back to our platforms. Our sponsors really embrace that.

Where do you stand with ad sales overall?

Our model is different than NBCUniversal Media LLC, which is selling across the U.S. on free-to-air channels, with large ad loads. We're cable, and it's more about affiliate fees and sub-licensing, which represents about two-thirds of our Olympic revenue. Advertising is a smaller bit.

There was real uncertainty even until about a month ago among clients because of concerns the Games are not welcome in Japan owing to COVID. We're going to end up in a pretty good place, but I would be lying if I said it hasn't been tough.

Where do you stand with sub-licensing for the Beijing Games?

Most of the deals were done in two cycles, for two Olympics each. Some were for both cycles at once. I'd say we're a handful short from being complete for the next cycle.

And ad sales?

A positive to come out of the delay has been the packaging of Tokyo with Beijing. Some clients want to create a narrative from the end of these games into the beginning of Beijing, which is now about seven months away.

CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels says Discovery will be cash-positive over the course of your four-Olympic Games package.

You have to consider the way things are recorded in Olympic years. It's always tough because of all the costs going into that versus recognizing revenues annually. We're on track and doing a little better than we thought.

Do you want to do this again, getting rights to the 2026 Olympics and beyond?

(Laughs). We're at the doorstep of the biggest single event in the company's history from a sports perspective. We have to see how a lot of stuff goes before we think about that.

In addition to record audiences, what are some of your other Olympic expectations?

The safety of our people is paramount. We are working closely with the IOC and [Japanese Organizing Committee] on those protocols and for the athletes we want to bring into the IBC [International Broadcast Center]. We're going to continue to be considerate of the Japanese as we spend time in their country at a moment that is quite challenging and look to balance having a smaller group on-site and delivering a quality output.

At this point, we don't know all the stories in front of us and how the athletes are going to react without fans and their families around in this unique situation.