Discovery Adds 3 Million DTC Subscribers in Third Quarter

Tokyo Olympics Help Drive Discovery to Surpass 18 Million Paid Subscribers

Doubling the number of subscribers that signed up to watch the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018

Discovery wins big with the Tokyo Olympics, growing the global entertainment company’s subscribers to more than 18 million, ahead of its pending merger with WarnerMedia. At the end of the quarter, the company had 17 million paying subscribers, but since the end of June, Discovery’s direct-to-consumer streaming services attracted another 1 million more subscribers. The company had 15 million in April, so growth has been strong and steady.

Summer Olympics coverage in Europe

The Tokyo Summer Olympics can take credit for the recent increase in subscribers, though some of those subscribers may be in their initial trial period. Discovery has the rights to the Olympic Games in Europe. The global entertainment company is broadcasting the Tokyo Olympics in 50 European markets in 19 languages. Discovery has taken a multi-platform approach (free to air, pay TV and direct-to-consumer streaming) to broadcasting Olympic events, drawing hundreds of millions of viewers. Complete Olympic coverage is available on the company’s Discovery+ (Denmark, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the U.K.) and Eurosport (all other European markets, except Russia) streaming services.

“Our first Summer Olympic Games have thus far been a success, supporting healthy viewing and subscriptions across both our linear and streaming platforms, and underscores the importance of our commitment and investment in marquee IP,” said Discovery CEO David Zaslav in an August 3, 2021 earnings news release. “We continue to fire on all cylinders, and I am very pleased with our momentum as we work to complete our transformational WarnerMedia transaction.”

Shinjuku City, Tokyo, Japan – June 12, 2021: Close-up of Olympic Rings in front of New National Stadium also called Tokyo Olympic Stadium. Image: Bigstock Photo

275 million viewers

In the first nine days of the games, Discovery reported that more than 275 million have watched the Summer Olympics, and more than 175 million of them watched the games on free-to-air channels through Discovery’s sublicense agreements in European territories. Another 100 million viewers watched the Summer Games via Discovery’s linear TV and streaming services.

“The opening week of the Olympic Games saw record numbers visit Discovery’s digital platforms in Europe to enjoy every unmissable moment of Tokyo 2020. The desire of viewers to personalize their experience, by choosing to watch any of their national heroes or favorite sports, has seen new digital subscriptions in the first week of the Games reach double the total acquired around Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018,” said Discovery in an August 3, 2021 news release.

“Almost three-quarter of a billion streaming minutes of Olympics content has been consumed on Discovery+ and Eurosport subscription services during the first week, nearly 18 times more than by the same stage of PyeongChang 2018,” the global entertainment company added.

Jean-Briac Perrette, President & CEO, Discovery International, said: “The Olympic Games is the biggest global event that goes far beyond sports and traditional sports audiences. When we look back at the first week, it is clear the Olympics has brought new and different audiences to our platforms in impressive numbers. The Tokyo Games are seeing digital numbers never seen before, and we are thrilled that so many fans across Europe are watching the Games on discovery+ and Eurosport Player.”


In addition to coverage of the Olympics, Discovery+ contributed to the large number of new streaming subscribers. The service launched in January 2021, and it offers two tiers: a $4.99 a month tier supported by ads, and an ad-free tier at $6.99 a month. Discovery+ features exclusive content as well as fan favorites like People Magazine Investigates, American Detective, Naked and Afraid, Super Soul with Oprah Winfrey, 90 Day Fiancé and Queen of Meth.

Insider Take

While the Summer Olympics helped boost Discovery’s direct-to-consumer streaming subscriber numbers, Discovery+ has done well in its own right. Since launching in January, fans have flocked to the niche streaming service for their favorite scripted and unscripted TV shows. The streaming subscription service will likely experience some churn after the Olympic Games are over, but Discovery+ has amassed an attractive slate of content, but they are likely to keep the majority while continuing to grow.

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