Q. I am very angry that new episodes of my favorite shows on the Discovery channels are going exclusively to Discovery Plus. I don’t want to spend any extra money to watch them and I should be able to watch them on my satellite TV dish which I pay a lot of money for already! Can we sue Discovery and DIRECTV for this? We are not getting the programming we were promised! — Maryann, New Bern, North Carolina.
Maryann, Discovery has decided to offer new episodes of several popular Discovery-branded shows as Discovery+ exclusives. The move is designed to attract new subscribers to the streaming service, but ‘old’ subscribers to Discovery-owned channels on cable and satellite are crying foul, saying the company is forcing them to pay more money to continue watching their favorites. (Discovery+’s plans start at $4.99 a month.)
Since Discovery+ launched on January 4, the service has been the exclusive home of new episodes of several shows that have built strong followings on channels such as Discovery, HGTV, the Travel Channel, the Food Network and TLC. The shows that now air their new episodes on the streaming service includes Property Brothers: Forever Home, Ghost Adventures, and Paranormal: Caught On Camera.
I’ve asked Discovery+ a few times whether they plan to add these episodes to Discovery’s pay TV channels so cable and satellite TV viewers can watch them as well. Unfortunately, Discovery’s PR reps have not responded to those inquiries. Earlier in the month when I asked about new episodes premiering on Discovery+ instead of the cable/satellite channels, a Discovery PR official did respond:
“We are experimenting with some show premieres on Discovery+ during a brief window during the service’s launch,” Discovery’s Cara Brugnoli told the TV Answer Man via e-mail. “That said, we remain committed to serving our pay-TV fans with the shows and talent they love and value. The vast majority of Discovery content premieres on linear, with current seasons largely exclusive to our traditional pay-TV offering.”
Since Discovery will not say if cable and satellite viewers will ever be able to watch the new episodes without subscribing to Discovery+, we have to assume the answer is no, or at least no for an indefinite period of time. And the likelihood that they won’t be able to watch them has prompted several Discovery fans to send me e-mails asking if they can sue the network and/or their cable and satellite provider for what feels to them like a bait-and-switch maneuver.
I’m not an attorney — and Lord knows that people will find ways to sue over anything — but I don’t believe a lawsuit would be successful here. When you begin your subscriptions, the pay TV operators clearly state in their terms that your programming can change at any time, and it often does due to carriage disputes and other reasons. To my knowledge, no subscriber has ever successfully sued a cable or satellite provider for not carrying a channel it previously carried.
As for suing Discovery, the same logic applies. Discovery, and all other channels, change their lineups all the time. They add and cancel shows every season. It’s their discretion what programming they offer and how and when they offer it. For instance, you couldn’t sue CBS because it no longer carries The Big Bang Theory, or Netflix because it dropped House of Cards.
I can understand why Discovery viewers are upset. Discovery+ is premiering the new episodes because those shows have a strong following and they will help the streaming service generate subscribers. But if it weren’t for the loyal viewers of the pay TV Discovery channels, the shows would be unknown and worthless to the network.
Discovery is basically building a new streaming service on the backs of their most loyal viewers.
But that said, you might be upset over this, but I don’t think you can sue over it.
Maryann, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at email@example.com. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann