Discovery to launch streaming service in January starting at $4.99 per month, Verizon customers get year free

Key Points
  • Discovery will launch its streaming service, Discovery+, on Jan. 4, 2021.
  • The service will include a $4.99 per month ad-supported tier and a $6.99 per month ad-free tier.
  • Discovery is partnering with Verizon to give 55 million customers up to 12 months of Discovery+ for free, depending on their plan.
David Zaslav
Olivia Michael | CNBC

Discovery is the latest media company to jump into the ever more crowded streaming wars.

It will launch its streaming service Discovery+ on Jan. 4, 2021. The service will include a $4.99 per month ad-supported tier and a $6.99 per month ad-free tier.

The lower $4.99 tier costs the same as NBCUniversal-owned Peacock's premium tier with ads. The ad-free $6.99 tier is on par with what Disney+ costs. Both offerings are much less expensive than WarnerMedia's HBO Max, which costs $14.99 a month, and Netflix, which raised its standard plan to $13.99 a month in Oct.

Discovery is also partnering with Verizon, which will give 55 million customers up to 12 months of the ad-free Discovery+ plan for free, depending on their wireless plan with the carrier.

Partnerships will be key to Discovery's success.

The company owns networks like the Discovery Channel, famous for its annual Shark Week, as well as home improvement channel HGTV and Food Network, among others. Discovery says Discovery+ will launch with the most content of any new streaming service: 55,000 episodes from 2,500 shows.

Discovery+ is also adding content from A&E, the History Channel and Lifetime in a new partnership. The service will feature original content from figures like Sir David Attenborough, chef Bobby Flay and comedian Kevin Hart as well.

The company emphasized its streaming service will stand out for its unscripted offerings.

Discovery+ also signed advertising partners such as Boston Beer Company, Kraft Heinz, Lowe's and Toyota.

The company did not say exactly where Discovery+ will be available. Some competitors have had trouble negotiating with Amazon Fire and Roku, two of the larger streaming TV platforms. Peacock launched on Roku in Sept. after months of negotiations, while HBO Max only launched on Amazon in mid-Nov. and remains absent from Roku.

Discovery is smaller and lesser known than its competitors which just launched their streaming services in the past year. In just one year, Disney+ has amassed 73.7 million subscribers, far exceeding the company's expectations for 60 to 90 million subscribers by 2024. NBCUniversal's Peacock, which launched this summer, has reached nearly 22 million sign-ups already. WarnerMedia reported more than 38 million domestic subscribers for HBO and HBOMax in October.

In early 2021, Paramount+ from ViacomCBS will also launch.

Discovery said it already has 5 million global paying subscribers across its existing streaming services. It believes the addressable market in the U.S. is at least 70 million homes and will continue to grow.

Discovery will hope its programming and partnerships can set its service apart as it joins a crowded field of competitors with leaders pulling away from the rest of the pack.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

Discovery set to unveil streaming service at noon ET Wednesday