With PGA Tour Deal, Discovery's OTT Ambitions Take Shape

On Monday, Discovery Inc. and the PGA Tour announced a $2 billion deal that gives Discovery exclusive rights to PGA Tour content outside of the United States. The deal, which starts next year and runs through 2030, will feature a new dedicated, golf-centric, over-the-top video service.

The new OTT service will be the culmination of years of testing in the direct-to-consumer space for Discovery.

“We see ourselves on a mission,” Discovery CEO David Zaslav told reporters Monday morning, noting the investments Discovery has made in global sports content in recent years. Discovery had previously purchased the European cable service Eurosport, and more recently signed a long-term deal for Eurosport to carry the Olympics. Now, with the PGA Tour deal, Discovery will be expanding its sports offerings globally (at least, outside of the U.S.).

“The number-one mission is a global direct-to-consumer platform that innovates and changes the way people consume content,” Zaslav says.

What will that platform look like? Zaslav said company strategists envision it as being a place where golf fans shop, watch instructional videos, talk to each other about tournaments and watch short-form content. All of that alongside live coverage of major tournaments.

It will also highlight local players, so China’s version of the app could feature additional content with Chinese golf stars.

“We want players from [different] countries to have a voice and share their story--to really be able to follow that player more intimately than we can today.”” Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, told reporters Monday.

Discovery will lead production on the service, for which no name or pricing has been decided yet.

Discovery as a media company is much smaller than competitors like Disney (in the process of getting bigger with its acquisition of Fox), Time Warner (in the process of being acquired by AT&T) and NBCUniversal. That was one of the reasons Discovery merged with Scripps Networks in a deal completed just a few months ago. 

Now, however, Discovery is seeking to forge a new path as an international programmer, one that owns its own content globally, and that has direct relationships to consumers worldwide.

It is a strategy distinct from many of its peers in the media, even as some of them begin to explore the possibility of growing abroad.

“No one has ever challenged this idea of being global, except for the big FANG companies [Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google],” Zaslav says.

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