Thursday, 23 October 2008

Discovery goes free to air

Discovery have secured a slot on Freeview, which will be used to screen the factual and entertainment programming which has made the network famous. I’ve not heard anything about what it’s to be called, but for me it’s a bold and very exciting move.

Discovery had previously agreed to supply factual and entertainment content for Sky’s ‘Picnic’ Freeview service. Picnic though was canned earlier in the year and Discovery have clearly decided it’s time for their content to get a wider airing.

...And bravo to them. Its a big step. Discovery’s whole model is pay TV; the business is geared to deliver large numbers of impacts – no-matter what the flavour. Moving onto Freeview presents all kinds of interesting challenges for the network.

Networks who deliver general impacts have limited commercial need in appealing to sought after audiences (clearly non core income streams are the exception here). As such the programming supported on air and ATL tends to be mass market – and doesn’t need to be terribly aspirational. As soon as a network starts chasing premium audiences all this changes.
I think there’s an interesting parallel hear to MTV and TMF.

MTV launched TMF in the wake of the ITV digital debarcle. The aim was to gain a free to air footprint to compliment the main channels. Today TMF is the larger channel and presents some interesting questions for the network going forward.

MTV had the advantage that their content is (in the main)short form – music videos, which means that they are able to show the same things on both channels without consumers feeling ripped off for having to pay for MTV when TMF is free.

So this is the question for Discovery, how do you brand a free to air channel whilst preserving the premium nature of your existing network?

It’ll also be interesting to see what becomes of their flagship shows currently re-airing on terrestrial...

All in all a bold and exciting move.

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