Sky TV has partially put to bed fears about Discovery Inc's local plans by signing a new, expanded, multi-year deal with the US giant for its TV channels - but has lost some of its exclusivity in the process.
The new deal sees longtime partner Sky retain exclusive TV rights to Discovery's stable of channels (and even gains one) and "a considerable amount of Discovery content will be available to Sky customers before, and if, it is broadcast free-to-air." It makes more Discovery content available for Sky's streaming platforms, Sky Go, Sky On Demand and Neon.
But at the same time, Sky has lost its exclusivity for streamed content - paving the way for the possible launch of Discovery+ in New Zealand.
Discovery announced Discovery+ on December 2, saying the streaming service would have a "global launch" from January 4, with the UK, Ireland, India, Italy, and Scandinavian countries the first to gain access.
It will cost US$4.99 a month with ads, or US$6.99 a month ad-free and feature "more than 1000 hours" per year of Discovery content.
Discovery is following, in part, the model pioneered by Disney with Disney+, the Magic Kingdom's $9.99 streaming service launched last year which has boomed during lockdowns and gained more than 60 million subscribers.
But whereas Disney pulled its channels from Sky TV (and other broadcasters worldwide) to make Disney+ the exclusive home of most of its content, a Discovery spokeswoman told the Herald that Sky TV would have "co-exclusive" platform rights to Discovery content - meaning it could stream on both Discovery+ and Sky's various streaming apps.
Asked if and when Discovery+ will be launched in NZ, a Discovery Australia-New Zealand spokeswoman said. "Local plans are still being determined".
Discovery+ will feature a number of original series, plus content drawn from the conglomerate's stable of TV channels. The exact content mix will vary by country.
Last week Discovery formally finalised its deal to buy MediaWorks TV, and said it would combine its Australian and New Zealand operations into one organisation "to increase scale across the region as a whole".
The new Sky TV-Discover agreement includes the Discovery Channel, TLC, Discovery Turbo, Living, Food Network and Animal Planet, as well as the launch of new channel Investigation Discovery (ID).
Discovery Channel will also be made available to more Sky customers through a move from Sky's Entertainment Package to Sky's Starter Package.
Discovery has also promised more local content, such as the recent Shark Lockdown, starring Clark Gayford, which screened on its Discovery Channel during its infamous Shark Week.
Sky would not immediately comment on the cost of the deal, or its exact duration.
The broadcaster has faced a more competitive content landscape recently, with Spark Sport grabbing Rugby World Cup and domestic cricket rights and, on the entertainment side, Disney, HBO, Showtime and now Discovery launching direct-to-the-consumer apps.
On Friday, Warner Bros announced it would stream its entire slate of new movies in 2021, at the same time they hit cinemas. Its HBO Max streaming app, launched in March, will be the vehicle for the studio's streaming.
Here, Sky has a "multi-year" exclusive deal with HBO that has prevented a local launch for its app. Sky has not revealed its duration, citing commercial sensitivity.
Sky shares were up 1.8 per cent to 16.7c in midday trading. The stock is down 62 per cent for the year.