TV Answer Man, we are still upset that Discovery Plus is airing new episodes of some of our favorite shows rather than airing them on the regular Discovery channels on DIRECTV like they used to. Won’t this hurt the regular channels? Fewer people will watch them, right? And then the channels may not survive, right?? Isn’t that a likely possibility? — Genny, Biloxi, Mississippi. 

Genny, as you note, Discovery has decided to offer new episodes of several popular Discovery-branded shows as Discovery+ exclusives such as Property Brothers: Forever Home, Ghost Adventures, and Paranormal: Caught On Camera, among others. This means that longtime cable and satellite viewers of those shows either have to subscribe to Discovery+ or go without their favorites.

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Discovery CEO David Zaslav recently said the decision to offer the episodes as Discovery+ exclusives is an “experiment,” but he would not say how long the ‘experiment’ will last. This has prompted many longtime Discovery viewers to express hope on social media sites that the new streaming service will fail. If it did, Discovery obviously would move the new episodes to the pay TV Discovery channels, such as HGTV, the Food Network, TLC, The Travel Channel, and Discovery.

But the company announced late last month that Discovery+ (and the company’s international streaming services) would likely hit 12 million subscribers by month’s end. While that includes some non-Discovery+ numbers, the Discovery exec said the “vast” majority represent paying Discovery+ customers. That would suggest Discovery’s ‘experiment’ is working for now,

However, there is one ray of hope for Discovery viewers who want their shows back. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said last month that Discovery’s decision to sell its programming directly to consumers, and bypassing the cable and satellite audiences, could ultimately lead to pay TV operators deciding not to carry their channels.

“I think Discovery has got great content,” Ergen told financial analysts in February during a conference call. “And we’ve had a long-term relationship with them. But obviously, to the extent that you can get it on a la carte basis, it will affect future negotiations. Because if our customers — some of our customers don’t watch Discovery. A lot of our customers don’t watch Discovery, should we burden every customer with Discovery if they can get it somewhere else? (It) has to be a fair rate that we can burden customers who don’t watch it and you have to run that math.”

If other pay TV services feel the same way, it could force Discovery to beef up the programming lineups on its regular channels to avoid carriage blackouts. And that would likely mean the return of new episodes on those highly-rated programs.

Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels was asked about this in a recent presentation at the Deutsche Bank media conference. He dismissed Ergen’s assertion, saying Discovery’s cable and satellite distributors are “very excited” about the prospect of adding Discovery+ to their lineups. (Some cable and satellite services, which offer third-party apps, such as HBO Max and Netflix, might be persuaded to offer Discovery+ as well. The pay TV subscribers, however, would still have to pay extra to get Discovery+.)

“I feel very good about it and our partners are very excited. The ones we’ve partnered with for the Discovery+ rollout so far are very, very happy with the product,” Wiedenfels said.

This is a rapidly developing situation and the TV Answer Man will continue to monitor it and report back here if anything significant changes.

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— Phillip Swann