Discovery says T-Mobile has no right to sell its channels in cheap package

TVision remote
(Fierce Video)

Discovery doesn’t sound happy that T-Mobile relegated its channels to a separate, inexpensive package within its relaunched TVision service.

During today’s earnings call, Discovery CEO David Zaslav said his company was “very surprised” with how T-Mobile chose to package its channels – which include Discovery, TLC, HGTV and Food Network – within the newly announced TVision service. He said that Discovery is having discussions with T-Mobile to quickly resolve the issue.

“We don’t believe they have a right to do what they’re doing right now,” Zaslav said, who explained that Discovery’s existing agreement with T-Mobile requires that Discovery’s networks be carried in certain packages.

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Last week, T-Mobile officially announced new TVision channel packages. The core Live TV service ($40/month) largely focused on news and live sports while TVision Vibe ($10/month) contains most of the general entertainment cable channels including Discovery’s portfolio.

The Vibe package is similar to what it already offered by Philo, a $20/month live streaming TV service. Discovery, along with other cable network groups like AMC Networks and ViacomCBS, was an early investor in Philo.

Discovery’s distribution dustup with T-Mobile comes as the programmer is getting close to revealing more details about its upcoming direct-to-consumer streaming service, which is set to launch in 2021. In September, Zaslav suggested that Discovery will take an approach similar to Disney+ and use its brands – like Discovery, Oprah, Food Network and Chip and Joanna Gaines, who are launching their own Magnolia Network – as “curation portals.”

“You’ll hear from us soon. I think one of the keys is getting partners to help. So, we’ve very quietly over the last year working aggressively in getting all of our stuff together and we’re quite close,” Zaslav said, who added that consumers are becoming more acclimated to subscribing to multiple streaming services.