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Media moguls: Discovery’s licensing impact

Source finds out how the business is delivering product extensions to ‘power people’s passions’.

It’s very easy to have office envy when you visit the Discovery complex in London’s Chiswick – it’s an impressive set up; one certainly befitting of the largest media IP company in the world.

The acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive in March 2018 marked a pivotal moment and the beginning of a new, exciting chapter for the combined Discovery, Inc. A global leader in real life entertainment, its portfolio is envy-inducing, too, covering a vast range of genres from food, home and travel, through to cars, science, European sports, animals and adventure.

For consumer products, this offers a veritable feast of opportunities and the team very much sees itself as an extension of the core network business, as Ian Woods, SVP, International Consumer Products & Global Digital Gaming. explains.

“We really wanted to look at how we could better work with the networks themselves,” he begins. “We need to prioritise markets and brands, but we also need to make sure we marry everything with the overall business structure and what their messaging is. The message from the business now is very much ‘power people’s passions’ and having that umbrella promise really helps everybody to understand what we’re doing.”

Animal Planet has appeal across numerous categories and territories, as illustrated by activity in retailers such as Cencosud Jumbo in Chile.
Animal Planet has appeal across numerous categories and territories, as illustrated by activity in retailers such as Cencosud Jumbo in Chile.

The company has built a number of verticals which tailor to super fans – across the likes of cycling, sport, cooking, home, travel and adventure – and this seques nicely into the consumer products business. Ian says: “It’s vital that we are an extension of what the business is doing. We need to be the next layer that offers consumers the chance to touch and feel the brand at a local level.”

It’s clear that the team are doing a good job, too, as it has enjoyed double digit growth as a division over the last 7-8 years and confidence is high that there is more to come.

Key focuses are on Discovery, Eurosport and Animal Planet, as well as the new gaming arm (see below).

Lifestyle brand Discovery Expedition launched in Korea almost seven years ago and is now a $300m retail brand in the territory, while it has also been steadily building in China. Ian explains that this has given the CP team a good foundation to now take that narrative and introduce it to other regions.

To give the brand a USP and further add to its authenticity, Discovery approached its camera crews who work with the likes of Bear Grylls and Ed Stafford to come on board as experts. “If they wouldn’t wear it or use it, then it’s not a Discovery Expedition product,” states Ian. “They have been using the equipment or wearing the kit and then sending vlogs, talking about it on social media and working with our partners to produce content which can be used to promote the brand. We’re about real information – that is really important to everything we do.”

A deal with Casio has also been secured in the UK market for a watch inspired by Discovery Expedition, while Ian and his team are actively looking for partners in other categories, such as tech, and food and nutrition.

For Eurosport, there are two target areas – the older market and the youth market. Ian explains that they are looking to target more co-brands and collaborations, beginning with a special edition Eurosport kit with the Le Col brand, which will be in celebration of the 100th Tour de France. In addition, a nutrition line – for both before exercise and recovery – is also being developed.

Food and nutrition is a category being looked at for Eurosport.
Food and nutrition is a category being looked at for Eurosport.

From the youth market point of view, the focus is on using Eurosport to encourage kids to get active. Discovery has partnered with South African company Evolution to create a range of over 40 sports products which are instructional – for example a tennis racket that shows how to grip correctly and where the sweet spot is on the face of the racket and a football which shows which part of the foot to use to make it curve when kicked.

“This is a new foray for us,” says Ian, “a new message – Designed for Future Champions. The narrative works and retail reaction so far has been really encouraging.”

Animal Planet, meanwhile, remains a staple part of the licensing business for Discovery. “It is a subject matter that always engages an audience and it is a very adaptable brand, so you can be smart with it,” Ian continues. “The programming now is very much bringing home the joy and wonder of animals and that is something we can seque well into what we do. We have a message that we can put across – we can introduce causal-related consumer products, for example. We have a brand with a global footprint on a subject matter that is timeless and year-round.”

The team is also investigating how to introduce pet products into the European and Asia Pacific markets, following the brand’s success in the category across the Latin American market, as well as looking at certain programming franchises coming out of Animal Planet.

It’s certainly an exciting time at Discovery and with so much in the pipeline further growth for the business is on the cards. Ian concludes: “Our message is that it’s business as usual; we’re aligning ourselves to be much closer with the networks, acting as an extension of that business. We have a localised team of specialists who know those markets and we can be flexible enough that we can adapt for local markets and local priorities.”

Game stations

Further looking at the alignment of the consumer products business with the networks, an obvious area is gaming, with a new gaming studio having been opened recently in New York.

“That is a really great extension of the network and, more importantly, it means we are able to focus on programme franchises that have been so big for us,” explains Ian. “One of the first projects was the launch of a PC game for [reality TV series] Gold Rush which achieved way more than our expectations, both in revenue and in take up of the game in some surprising markets.”

A Diesel Brothers game will launch in May and Ian also hinted at ideas coming through for the likes of Animal Planet and Say Yes to the Dress. “Gaming is one of the fastest growing areas of our business and we are delighted with how it’s working. The product reflects the quality of the team we have out there.”

This feature originally appeared in the summer 2019 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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