Discovery Networks: “Pay-TV is stronger than ever”

John Honeycutt, COO of Discovery Networks International

John Honeycutt, COO of Discovery Networks International

John Honeycutt, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Discovery Networks International, on the changes pay-TV is currently going through, the rise of TV Everywhere, and the promise held by Social TV.

John will be speaking at the TV Connect 2013 event taking place in London on 19-21 March 2013. For more information and to register, please visit

To kick things off, could you tell us what excites you most about the changes pay-TV is currently going through?

Pay-TV is stronger than ever because of the breadth and diversity of content choices out there.

Working across 218 countries means that pay-TV is at very different stages of evolution depending which market you are looking at specifically.

Overall, we at Discovery are glad to be working with our affiliate partners to roll out HD channels in key markets markets, deliver new content from our DNI production and development group and see technology continue to evolve like the digitisation process in India.

One thing that has worked quite well for us is the ability to localise our content. A big production we did this year was ‘HOW WE INVENTED THE WORLD’. It is a big global production with customised elements – local hosts and topics – in what we call ‘snap ins’ so it is relevant for the specific markets.

Given the rise of TV Everywhere, do you envisage a world where all video is delivered over-the-top and on-demand?

This is an interesting question. I can only predict so far into the future so here are my thoughts. Linear TV is not going away anytime soon. Two studies that came out last week, one in the US and one here in the UK, both stated that consumers are watching more television on linear than ever before.

With that said, on-demand, TV Everywhere and OTT are all added ways for viewers who may not have seen our shows live gain exposure to the dynamic and varied content we have on our portfolio of channels.

From the onset, our position has been conservative because the economics need to work for these types of deals and we need to know that there are metrics in place to deliver some form of viewership.  As of right now though, it is still too small to be a concern.

Also, we have such strong relationships with our pay-TV operators and they are creating their own platforms, so that is where our focus is. We have done a few deals in the US and a Netflix deal in the Nordics for library content.

Lastly, I do still believe that many people still watch brands not programmes, which is excellent news for us since Discovery’s brand is one of the most well-known and trusted around the world.

What significant changes are you seeing emerge on the user experience side?

As a techie, I love seeing all of the changes both as a consumer but also as an executive in charge of our international digital strategy.

Being a consumer in London, I can tell you that the EPGs are getting easier to navigate and find content. They are no longer a listing of shows but more like a curatorial device or a navigator for a viewer’s experience. There is a whole generation who only watch three screen or on mobile devices and don’t know any other way.

The desire for a deeper content experience while watching a show or immediately following has become a whole other way for us to programme our content. Tablets and smartphones have become the new remotes so you can actually access the content on your set-top box or set record on your box no matter where you are.

And one thing I am very excited to follow and be part of is 4KHD or Ultra HD. From what I have seen, it is a level of clarity that is hyper real. As a Fulham fan, getting me closer to the away games will be a huge bonus!

What promise do you think social TV holds? Will it remain a minority experience?

Social TV is something we are using across several of our markets for key titles that either have a huge following or are building up to a big crescendo in the story. For us, it has given us an immediate ability to understand our viewers’ needs as well as an early indicator on ratings.

Just this week, we watched as ‘Wheeler Dealers’ became the top #1 trending topic on Twitter. It was all happening in real time and we could see the feedback about the show, the talent etc. Mike and Edd were also live tweeting, which was great. And it proved to be a positive indicator for the ratings.

It is the water cooler conversation happening in real time, not the next day at the office. We believe as tablets and smartphones continue to grow and dominate, this will become even more relevant, but for now it remains a minority experience.

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