Channels & Streamers: How Animal Planet is adapting to the rise of discovery+, with Dan Salerno

by Dan Salerno.

Discovery continues to go “all in” with Discovery+.

Announcements of new premieres are rolling out almost daily, with four more last week alone.

One announcement, the upcoming Discovery+ special, Crikey! It’s a Baby! prompted us to check in with Animal Planet.

Three months since the much publicized launch, what is coming, what is going, and how are they balancing the linear network with the SVOD offering?


Dan Salerno is a veteran programming executive and senior consultant.

In this post and podcast (15′), he continues his unique, deep coverage of how the channels and streamers are exchanging program pipelines and schedules during the shift to streaming.


Listen here (15′)


About Animal Planet

  • Launched 1996
  • Estimated subscribers: 80M, down from a peak of roughly 90M
  • Launched as an entertainment network with a range of formats, focusing on the animals and wildlife genre
  • Refocused to primarily non-fiction entertainment, heavy on character-led formats and very light on blue chip natural history
  • Peak commissioning pipeline: 300+/- hours / year

PROGRAM DECISIONS THAT TELL A STORY

Pig Royalty

  • Reality series originally developed for Animal Planet, shifted to launch on Discovery+ with heavy marketing support.
  • Multiple sneak peek airings on Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, First Look segments scattered across both channels.
  • Major email blasts to Discovery’s newsletter distribution lists.
  • Clearly a priority for Discovery+.

Pits Bull & Parolees

  • Discovery announces the 18th season of the long running Animal Planet staple, will shift to Discovery Channel.  A significant move.
  • Following a subpar performance on the first episode, the series has been shifted back to Animal Planet and will restart this weekend.

Crikey! It’s the Irwins!

  • After two seasons on the linear channel, the third season premiered on Discovery+ in February.
  • Occasional airings on Animal Planet and Discovery serve as marketing platforms for Discovery+
  • Series is now repeating on Animal Planet after a two month window on the streamer.

The Zoo: San Diego

  • The sophomore season was originally announced for the linear channel in February
  • Before it could debut, the series was shifted to an exclusive premiere on Discovery+ with a weekly rollout.
  • It has yet to repeat on Animal Planet or any of the Discovery owned linear channels.

THE CHANGING SCHEDULE

  • Until Pit Bulls shifted back, Sunday night’s Lone Star Law was the only remaining premiere series on the linear channel at the moment and it ends this weekend.
  • Monday to Friday is filled with repeats and repacks from the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet library, including  Alaska’s Bush People, Treehouse Masters, and Tanked.

TAKEAWAYS: WHO GETS PRIORITY?

  • Prioritizing your linear channels portfolio and the launch/build of a streaming platform for the future is a delicate balance at best.
  • Portfolios have to decide.  Concentrate content and resources on a few nets, or spread them out across the entire portfolio?  Discovery is choosing the former.
  • Discovery+ has put TLC, HGTV, Food, and ID front and center, along with the flagship Discovery Channel brand.
  • Thus far, all five channels have maintained a solid volume of new content on their linear schedules, while continuing to feature exclusive content on Discovery+.
  • That has not been the case for Animal Planet.  It appears to have been asked to step back on its position in the Discovery portfolio.
  • Shifting marquis series and brand defining specials, reducing premiere volume on the linear channel, reworking library content, devoting the net’s on-air marketing resources to promoting the SVOD, are all consistent with a Discovery+ first strategy.
  • As a brand, Animal Planet remains a buyer at the moment, with projects for the network and the streamer.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Animal Planet is still figuring it out.

  • For over two decades it was solidly the third channel in the Discovery portfolio, behind Discovery and TLC.
  • Not so much today.

The integration of the Scripps nets, the success of ID, and the rise of SVOD, have shifted the internal landscape and dropped it to a 2nd tier priority.

  • Short term strategy until Discovery+ is on solid footing?
  • Or a more permanent shift?

Too early to call. Stay tuned!

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