Digging deeper into the Discovery+ deal

We’ve finally seen Discovery+ content chief, Lisa Holme, speak out to producers as the Discovery+/WarnerMedia merge seems set to wrap up soon. With this eagerly anticipated merger once again occupying the headlines, we turned to entertainment attorney Los Angeles Brandon Blake for his take on the content they’re looking to push through.

No need for panic

Holme, currently serving as Group Senior Vice President for Content and Commercial Strategy at Discovery+, has revealed ‘exciting new prospects’ ahead for creatives and content creators while speaking at a panel session at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Yet she also cautions that they cannot jump the gun while the regulatory approval process is still on the table. For now, the message is that business stays as usual for both companies. Only after the merger gets the green light can talks of IP and talent acquisition go ahead.

Despite this caution, however, the 30-minute session did include some hints as to the types of shows her team will be seeking out, which appears to focus on commissioned feature docs, as well as a softened stance on rights ownership.

Docu-follow anchor series

It seems Discovery+ is keen to find themselves an anchor character-based docu-follow series in the vein of those that have thrust Netflix to its No. 1 spot. For Discovery+, this will be an adventure into more managed production and reality formatting.

Short-running series also were highlighted, intended to create further buzz and attention for the network, emphasizing that streaming showcases the feature doc to a better extent than cable. This is very much in line with the feature docs we’ve seen Discovery focus on over the last year. It’s clear they want some home-grown original commissioned doc titles for 2022, however, rather than the pick-ups they’ve been using to date.

Topics to avoid

That’s not to say just any documentary will do. She was keen to close the field to politics and news, and music/dance shows on the lighter side. Instead, they’re searching for paranormals, true crime, dating, and social experiment formats. They are finally willing to relax their harsh stance regarding IP, too, it would appear. To date, Discovery + creations have been more ‘producer for hire’ than anything else, but she teased at the possibility of greater flexibility going forward and a willingness to consider other possibilities.

Docu-series aren’t the streamer’s only focus, with some scripted projects also on the cards. Several teases for Food Network projects were revealed, alongside some others. However, it seems like a genre they’re not as keen to dabble in domestically. Internationally, there’s more wiggle room, but she was quick to suggest that the new network will not be the best home for English-language scripted projects outside of occasional one-offs.

It looks like the hoped-for smooth merger process will go all-in with some very clear content requirements for the network. If you have an IP in the categories they’re looking for, it could be time to start getting your pitches ready to hit the ground running as soon as the deal gets regulatory approval.