News about Discovery+ launching in Canada, "What Happened, Brittany Murphy", "Shetland", and more.
Discovery Inc., the parent company of international TV brands such as Discovery Channel, TLC, HGTV, and Food Network, announced in late 2020 that it had begun launching "discovery+" (officially stylized in lowercase – though we will not necessarily be observing this here – and pronounced "Discovery Plus"), an over-the-top streaming service focused on non-fiction programming from across Discovery's brands. The service includes exclusive programs featuring the likes of Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, Joe Kenda, Chip and Joanna Gaines (of the forthcoming Magnolia Network, a joint venture with Discovery), and spinoffs of TLC's 90 Day Fiancé franchise.
Several months after its American launch, on October 12, Discovery+ confirmed it will launch in Canada on Tuesday, October 19, 2021, with an ad-supported version available for $4.99 per month, and ad-free for $6.99 per month (prices are before applicable sales taxes). More details are now available on the service's website.
The launch may have been complicated by some of Discovery Inc.'s prior agreements with Canadian media companies. Ultimately, Corus Entertainment, one of Discovery Inc.'s current Canadian partners (as the operator of the local versions of HGTV and Food Network), agreed to cooperate with the launch as a marketing partner. However, the service will also include programs from brands like Discovery Channel and Animal Planet that Bell Media has historically controlled the Canadian rights to.
Why did it take longer for Discovery+ to launch in Canada?
After launching in some overseas markets in 2020, Discovery+ came to a few more countries, including the United States, in January 2021.
This initial launch seems to have been confusing for many in Canada, partly as it was heavily promoted on U.S.-based channels like TLC – a Discovery Inc. property, and one of the few Discovery brands that broadcasts its American feed directly to Canada – with many promotions suggesting that there would be new shows in the 90 Day Fiancé franchise that wouldn't be otherwise available to Canadians.
In fairness, most promotions for the service on media available in Canada (like TLC) included the footnote "US Only" or similar, while the @DiscoveryPlus Twitter account replied to requests from Canadians with messages along these lines:
While the company had said that there would be a wider rollout of Discovery+ in the second half of 2021 and into 2022, Canada was not mentioned at all in the initial announcements. Instead, short-term expansion plans focused on Europe, where Discovery's Eurosport division owns broadcasting rights to the Olympics, and Discovery+ ultimately assumed streaming rights the games in those territories.
However, in an August 2021 investor call, Discovery executives finally confirmed that its streaming service would launch in Canada later in the year. (The comments were first reported by Canadian media trade publications Realscreen and Playback.)
What programs will be available on Discovery+ in Canada?
While it appears that the programming lineup will be similar to what's available on Discovery+ in the U.S. – frankly, more than we were originally expecting – there will be some differences.
Some of this is related to third-party content agreements that only apply to the United States. For example, marketing for the Canadian version does not suggest there will be any content from A+E Networks (owner of the A&E, History, and Lifetime channel brands), which is a major supplier to the American version of Discovery+.
However, the larger effect may be from Discovery Inc.'s past licensing deals in Canada. Apart from TLC and American Heroes Channel, Discovery does not directly operate the Canadian versions of its TV channel brands like Discovery Channel.
Instead, the Canadian rights to many of these brands, and their associated programs, have been separately licensed to two Canadian-based media companies which are fierce competitors with each other – Bell Media and Corus Entertainment (the specific channels operated by each company are listed further down).
It now looks like, notwithstanding these licensing deals, Discovery held back enough new and library content to be able to populate the Canadian version of Discovery+ and not make it look half-baked.
But it's likely there will still be some shows that premiere on Discovery-branded TV channels, which Discovery+ would not be able to stream in Canada due to these prior exclusive licensing deals, even if it can stream them simultaneously in the United States.
And at this point it seems very unlikely that Bell's and Corus' original Canadian programs that premiered on its Discovery-branded networks, like Mighty Ships (Discovery) or Island of Bryan (HGTV), some of which are licensed to competing broadcasters internationally, will make it to Discovery+.
The recently-announced merger of Discovery Inc. and WarnerMedia throws another wrinkle into things. The companies have already talked about using the merger to grow their streaming services – Discovery+ and HBO Max – internationally. But the merger is expected to take until at least mid-2022 to complete.
Will Discovery+ original programs be available on regular TV in Canada?
On a couple of occasions, Discovery+ exclusives have also aired on regular TV in Canada.
For example, BattleBots: Bounty Hunters eventually aired on Discovery Canada on Sundays nights beginning March 28; this seems to be tied to the series also starting to air on Discovery Channel in the U.S. around the same time, several weeks after its streaming release. (This was first brought to our attention by a poster on the DigitalHome.ca forums.) It's possible that this may be extended to other current "Discovery+ exclusives" in the future.
Because of the number of programs, it will not be practical for us to track each and every show that is or isn't available on regular TV in Canada. For now, we suggest keeping an eye on the TV listings and on-demand folders for the channels mentioned here in case they end up carrying the shows you're looking for.
Where else can Canadians access programs from Discovery's brands?
- Bell Media operates branded Canadian cable channels based on the flagship Discovery brand as well as Animal Planet, Discovery Science (based on the Science Channel in the U.S.), Velocity (now known in the U.S. as Motor Trend), and Investigation Discovery (or ID). These channels are not currently available on a pure over-the-top basis in Canada (unless you count app-based services tied to an Internet provider, like Bell's Alt TV and Telus' Pik TV), but TV service subscribers to the channels can access programming on-demand with TV Everywhere authentication on the CTV website and apps. (A handful of programs from these channels, including various "Shark Week" specials, are also available on Bell's Crave streaming service.)
In a statement to other media outlets, Bell Media indicated that there will be "no immediate changes to Discovery Channel in Canada" in relation to the launch of Discovery+ in this country, though the impact on the longer-term future of Bell's Discovery-branded channels is less clear.
- Corus operates Canadian versions of Home and Garden Television (HGTV), Food Network, Cooking Channel, DIY Network, and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. (Except for OWN, all of these brands were licensed from Scripps Networks until that company merged with Discovery in 2018.) Subscribers to HGTV and Food Network can access programs on demand on the Global TV website and apps, while cordcutters can access these two channels with a subscription to the StackTV add-on to Amazon Prime Video. The other Corus-operated channels are not currently available as part of a standalone over-the-top service.
As noted above, Corus will be cooperating with the launch of Discovery+ in Canada with an "integrated marketing partnership" including Corus' TV channels, radio stations and other platforms. It's possible that this came along with some other changes to their existing partnerships which would affect what programs are available on Discovery+ and when.
- Meanwhile, Discovery directly distributes the U.S. versions of TLC (originally The Learning Channel) and American Heroes Channel (AHC) in Canada as permitted foreign TV channels. They were permitted because, at least at the time they requested permission, no Canadian channel was in operation offering similar programming and no Canadian company wanted to operate a similar channel. The TV Everywhere sites/apps for these channels do not currently work with any Canadian TV providers, nor are they available separately via any standalone over-the-top packages.
Is there any government rule that delayed Discovery+ from operating in Canada?
No. There is no current law and no CRTC rule that could directly prevent or delay Discovery+ from operating in Canada. Foreign ownership regulations that govern broadcast and cable channels in Canada do not affect Internet-based services. While changes to Canadian broadcasting legislation were proposed in late 2020, they are expected to affect the production and promotion of Canadian content by these services, but not their ability to operate, even with a foreign owner or external base of operations.
So, apart from whatever limits might be imposed by Discovery Inc.'s programming contracts with Canadian media companies, Discovery+ is free to offer its services here, the same as other American-based streaming services in Canada like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
However, the reason Discovery and Scripps formed relationships with Canadian companies like Bell and Corus in the first place is because they would not have been able to bring most of these channels to Canada directly to traditional TV providers, due in large part to the foreign ownership regulations mentioned above. Those ownership rules remain in effect today for regular cable TV channels. And those ongoing relationships, in turn, seem to have tied up some of the programming rights that would otherwise have been available to Discovery+.
So it's fair to point out that if those rules were not in place, and Discovery Inc. and its predecessors had been operating in Canada directly all along, the company might have been in a position to bring Discovery+ here at around the same time as in the United States, and/or with more programming.
Of course, such a change might have had other consequences that at least some Canadian viewers would be less happy about. If Discovery or Scripps had been able to import their other American channels directly as with TLC, it's not clear whether the Canadian-produced shows that have become hits on the Bell / Corus versions of these channels – shows like Heavy Rescue: 401, Holmes on Homes, or Disaster DIY – would have ever been made. These aren't necessarily everyone's cup of tea, but it seems safe to say they would have left a hole in Canada's TV landscape.
I heard about a merger between Discovery and AT&T / Warner Bros. / HBO Max. Could that affect Discovery+ in Canada?
It's not clear yet.
What's happening is that AT&T will be spinning off its WarnerMedia division – the company that owns Warner Bros. Pictures, HBO, DC Comics, CNN, and quite a few other channels and brands – to its shareholders, and then immediately merging that spinoff with Discovery Inc. to form a bigger media company, tentatively named "Warner Bros. Discovery". This merger was announced in May 2021 but likely won't be completed until mid-2022.
While there is some speculation that this deal could eventually result in Discovery+ being absorbed into, or otherwise bundled with, HBO Max (the WarnerMedia streaming service that is similarly unavailable in Canada), nothing along those lines has been announced yet, and probably won't be until the merger is completed.
In terms of Canada, it seems to be too early to say what will happen. The two Canadian media companies we mentioned above, Bell and Corus, also have separate long-term partnerships with WarnerMedia – Bell for HBO programming and Warner Bros. films, Corus for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim programs, among others – so it doesn't make the situation more or less complicated than it has been for Discovery by itself.
Some analysts have speculated that this merger might be a catalyst for the merged company to select a single Canadian company to work with going forward. However, we're not sure the existing partnerships with either Bell or Corus can be easily or quickly unwound. And in any case, again, it is not likely to happen before the Warner/Discovery merger closes in mid-2022.
- October 16, 2021 – updated throughout (and some redundant content removed) to reflect Discovery+ launching in Canada on October 19
- September 6, 2021 – noted that discoveryplus.com now redirects to a .ca domain within Canada
- August 14, 2021 – updated to reflect recent statements about Discovery Inc. now planning a Canadian launch of Disc+ later in 2021
- June 9, 2021 – minor updates, such as recent changes to what appears on the DiscoveryPlus.com website in Canada
- May 18, 2021 – noting the recently-announced (but not yet complete) Discovery / WarnerMedia merger
- April 13, 2021 – noting that streaming rights to programming from Bell Media's Discovery-branded linear channels have been relocated to CTV's apps
- March 2, 2021 – minor update on the international rollout plans for Discovery+ (mostly in Europe, so far)
- January 31, 2021 – further minor revisions and clarifications (however, the overall situation has not changed)
- January 11, 2021 – revisions to make clear that we don't really know (yet) where these shows will be in Canada
- January 4, 2021 – section on (perhaps) why it's not launching in Canada with just TLC programs