Discovery Inc ended 2021 with 22 million direct subscribers, including those provided through third-party platforms, an increase of 2 million in three months. It is due to launch an advertising-supported tier of discovery+ in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The anticipated combination of Warner Bros. Discovery will create what it describes as one of most dynamic media companies in the world.
Total revenues for 2021 grew 14% to $10.67 billion. Discovery generated about $1.6 billion of what it describes as next-generation revenues from its online services in 2021, an increase of 80% on the previous year. It absorbed over $1 billion in losses from investments in its next-generation services Discovery ended 2021 with $3.9 billion in cash on hand and gross debt of $15.4 billion.
The company has moved all its discovery+ subscriber base across Europe onto the same technology platform as the United States, which will deliver a more personalized experience to drive better consumer engagement and lower churn, as well as enabling an ad-lite advertising offering in key markets, beginning in March in the United Kingdom and Ireland, followed by further countries in Europe.
The Olympic Winter Games from Beijing produced strong results across the Discovery television network and streaming products in Europe. As well as driving new paid online subscribers to discovery+, well over half of all new Olympics subscribers engaged with its entertainment programming.
In the United States, distribution revenue increased by 17%, boosted by discovery+, more than offsetting declines in traditional television subscriber numbers of 4%.
“2021 was by all measures an exceptional year for our company, in which we achieved significant operational, financial, and strategic objectives,” reported David Zaslav, the president and chief executive of Discovery. He said the deal with AT&T to spin off Warner Bros is on track to close in the second quarter, providing “remarkable opportunities ahead for Warner Bros. Discovery, which we believe will be among the world’s most dynamic media companies.”
The combined portfolio will include everything from Superman and Wonder Woman to CNN, Eurosport, and major basketball, baseball, and hockey leagues. Discovery is also in final negotiations on a joint sports deal with BT in the United Kingdom.
“Taken together, we will have a broad menu of content to super serve every demo and every family member,” he told analysts. “Who will never want to leave?”
“We plan on being careful and judicious our goal is to compete with the leading streaming services, not to win the spending war.”
“Let’s take this car out for a ride. Let’s see how this does,” he said. “We’re going to be measured. We’re going to be smart and we’re going to be careful, but we’re going to invest in the streaming platform. But that’s not our only game. Our game is to create a business that generates sustainable growth, that’s global in nature, that generates a lot of free cash flow.”