Discovery Inc, of the US, has acquired the monthly magazine Golf Digest from Condé Nast in a deal estimated to be worth $30-35m. Discovery is making a push into golf entertainment with a 12-year, $2bn PGA Tour contract, a content deal with resurgent champion Tiger Woods, and its GolfTV streaming service which offers instruction, equipment advice, course rankings, travel destinations and online bookings to subscribers.
Golf Digest will continue to publish in print. The monthly magazine, which has licensed editions in more than 60 countries, had previously been purchased for about $400m in 2001. It claims 4.8m readers, 2.2m social followers, and 60m video views. David Zaslav, Discovery president/CEO, said: “Golf Digest is a world-class brand that has become the ‘go-to’ authority for millions of golf enthusiasts, professional players and global advertisers”.
The acquisition shows how digital media can make good use of magazine brands, content and relationships to augment multi-platform global networks. It also highlights the strategy of Discovery as a company which has come a long way since the pioneering launch 34 years ago of the eponymous documentary TV channel.
It is now the self-described global leader in “real life entertainment”, serving a passionate audience of “super fans” around the world with content that “inspires, informs and entertains”. Discovery delivers over 8,000 hours of original programming each year to 220 countries in 50 languages. Its brands include: Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, Motor Trend, Animal Planet, and Science Channel, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the US, Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport.
Increasingly, the $11bn-revenue Discovery (60% US) is a collection of global special interest networks connected variously by broadcast, online, events and (perhaps) magazines. At the recent Deloitte media conference in London, Discovery international CEO J.B. Perrette, marked the 3oth anniversary of Discovery’s first launch outside the US by contrasting the streaming strategies of Netflix, Amazon, Apple et al (“whose strategy is to enable viewers to escape and lose themselves”) with Discovery’s “totally different strategy: Real life entertainment is even more powerful because that’s where people come to find themselves. We power people’s passions. We build communities of fans and target groups who want to ‘view and do’. We are all about Entertainment, Information and Empowerment across all screens”.
He noted that one key to the Discovery strategy has always been to own almost all of its content for every platform in every market round the world – “even when the world was linear”. That is now paying off.
The Discovery strategy effectively challenges the “by enthusiasts for enthusiasts” magazines which have long dominated special interest media. Discovery’s acquisition of the UK-based Global Cycling Network from long-time magazine executive Simon Wear, Golf Digest and GolfTV, and Motor Trend (the 2017 acquisition of which marked the company’s first direct-to-consumer online service in the US), are all signs of how major special interest verticals are becoming global and may be dominated by the owners of online video, not just of print and digital text. And you can imagine the scale of opportunity in product merchandising.
We may expect Discovery to keep making acquisitions of digital media and magazines in sports, travel, science, and food as it develops its global all-media networks. With declining profits, even strong magazine brands and their digital offerings are relatively cheap, especially for companies which have other ways to monetise. For media which can captivate viewers with exclusive video, perhaps magazines will even become stylish content marketing. The Discovery strategy may just help to guide the ambitions of newspapers, magazines and broadcasters who should buy and build multi-platform partnerships to emulate it in their best verticals.