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Viewers Hate Swiss Cheese: Notes From the Discovery Keynote

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If there's one thing Karen Leever learned from her time with DirecTV, it's that viewers hate Swiss cheese. She's not talking about actual cheese, of course, but when video on-demand (VOD) networks offer some episodes from some seasons, but not a complete run of anything. Viewers hate that: They want to get a complete season run or, better yet, complete series run.

Leever worked with DirecTV when it set up its VOD offerings, then took her learnings to her current position as president of U.S. digital products for Discovery. With 19 networks, her new company is the second largest network group in the U.S., after NBC, and because it creates and owns its shows it has no problem making complete series runs available to VOD viewers. Each Discovery network has its own VOD app, so superfans can zero in on the content they want, watching full series from the first episode.

Leever spoke during a keynote conversation at the TV of Tomorrow show, which takes place today in New York City.

"It's so important to give the consumer what they're paying for," Leever said. For Discovery, that means offering over 45,000 episodes across its network apps. Customers are paying for access, so give them complete access, she said. It's important to delight the consumer.

In 2017, Discovery started focusing on digital originals. It focused on two types: originals that were completely new but retained the DNA of their parent network, and originals that extend a tent pole show into digital. Now, Discovery has over 1,000 original episodes running from 8 to 15 minutes each.

"Our superfans love them," Leever said. "Often they watch them and go on to watch something on linear, one of our long-form episodes."

When managing her properties, Leever pays the most attention to total time watched, a metric she studies religiously. While it's important to know what type of content people choose, and whether they prefer short- or long-form, it's total minutes she focuses on. "I want to increase our minutes watched every single month," she said.

For TV Everywhere properties, the biggest pain point right now is the difficulty of signing in. People need to remember their ID and password, and when faced with a sign-in box will often turn away if they don't have their information. Leever would like to see a single sign-on solution, and said her tech team is working with MVPDs to create something.

"We run it like it’s a direct-to-consumer business," Leever said. That means thinking about what consumers are paying for and giving them the best experience possible.

Karen Leever

Karen Leever, president of U.S. digital products for Discovery

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