While many video streaming services aim for specific audiences, Discovery Inc.’s discovery+ is far more ambitious. This new and inexpensive streaming platform offers a massive number of shows from traditional cable channels such as Animal Planet, Food Network, HGTV, OWN, TLC, Travel Channel, and many more. Its web interface and mobile devices are also well designed, but the service is missing a few features, such as offline downloads on mobile and parental control tools.
Discovery claims that discovery+ has 55,000 episodes from its various networks, and, while I did not count each entry individually, the sheer number of shows from each of the many channels on the service seems to track with this claim. Given the volume of titles available for streaming, we can’t cover them all here, but we explore some of the library highlights below.
On the service, you can find on-demand shows and documentaries from American Heroes Channel, Animal Planet, A&E, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery, Discovery Life, DIY Network, Food Network, HGTV, History Channel, Lifetime, ID (Investigation Discovery), Magnolia Network (Preview), OWN, Planet Earth (from the BBC), Science, TLC, and Travel Channel. You won’t find a significant number of movies and films though, so cinephiles should check out our roundup of the best movie streaming services for options such as The Criterion Channel and Mubi.
Starting with HGTV, you get full runs of shows such as Beachfront Bargain Hunt, Home Town, and Love It or List It, with the promise of a January launch for dedicated continuous channel streams of episodes from marquee shows such as Property Brothers, House Hunters, and House Hunters International. Content from Food Network includes Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives; Kids Baking Competition; Restaurant: Impossible; The Kitchen; and Unwrapped. Again, popular shows such as Chopped are getting dedicated continuous streams. It’s unclear whether individual episodes from the series with these streaming channels will be available on-demand as well; if they are not, that’s a potentially huge drawback. Rounding out the lifestyle content are entries from Cooking Channel, DIY Network, Magnolia Network, and Travel Channel, including The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Salvage Dawgs, Family Dinner, and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.
For fans of shows related to nature and animals, there’s Animal Planet (Crikey! It’s the Irwins, Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet, My Cat From Hell, and Pitbulls and Parole), the BBC’s Planet Earth collection (Blue Planet II, Dynasties, Planet Earth I, Planet Earth II, The Blue Planet I, and many more). The Dodo has short clips of animal-related content, but nothing substantial. Discovery Channel (The Deadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, and MythBusters) and the Science Channel (How It’s Made, How The Universe Works, and Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman) also have a few shows that might appeal to the same audience. Still, if you want an edutainment-style service, CuriosityStream or The Great Courses may be a better option.
The ID channel is a destination for true-crime fans, while A&E and the History Channel offer series about everything from ghost hunting to storage wars to ice-road trucking to alien investigations. OWN (Iyanla: Fix My Life and Our America with Lisa Ling) and TLC (90 Day Fiancé and What Not to Wear) are notable for their people- and family-centric series, while Lifetime focuses on movies in a similar vein. Say Yes to The Dress is among those series to get a dedicated streaming channel.
No on-demand video streaming service is complete without a library of original content, and discovery+ is no exception. However, about half of discovery+’s current lineup of original content are miniseries from the 90 Day Journey collection. Other notable titles are American Detective with Lt. Joe Kenda, which explores complicated and bizarre cases from across the country; Six Degrees with Mike Rowe, in which Rowe uncovers the link between unlikely events and ideas; Mysterious Planet, a David Schwimmer-narrated nature documentary series; and House Hunters Comedians on Couches: Unfiltered, a series in which guest comedians watch and react to episodes of House Hunters alongside hosts Natasha Leggero and Dan Levy. You’ll find additional discovery+ exclusive shows from established personalities from the cable networks that feed the service. For example, Joanna Gaines (from Fixer Upper) hosts Magnolia Kitchen and Ben Napier (from Home Town) fronts Ben’s Workshop.
For those looking for something different from discovery+’s particular brand of original content, HBO Max’s, Prime Video’s, and Netflix’s original shows typically attract more attention in the sphere of pop culture.
Discovery+ currently occupies its own space in the video streaming world. Sure, other traditional cable channels and media companies have launched dedicated services, such as BET+, Starz, and Showtime, but none of those come close to reaching discovery+’s library size. Even NBC’s Peacock and CBS All Access are nowhere near as large as discovery+, because, again, those services only cover a single channel. When CBS All Access turns into Paramount+ later this year, that combined service should be much more competitive.
For all the on-demand content that discovery+ offers, it is disappointing that you don’t get live feeds of any of the Discovery channels. Although this capability would almost certainly raise the subscription cost, I would like to see this option added, perhaps at a higher price tier. While the soon-to-be-launched House Hunters and Chopped channels will run continuously, neither are replacements for the live Food Network or HGTV channels you get with cable or a live TV streaming service. Whether that distinction matters seems to be increasingly less important. In any case, the Chopped and House Hunter channels are similar to the preprogrammed streams on Pluto TV and Xumo that focus on a single show.
If you primarily want to watch Discovery channels live, Philo is your best option. That service includes a substantial on-demand library from its live channels. Both Sling TV‘s Orange and Blue plans also include several of the most popular Discovery network channels.
Discovery+ is among the cheapest video streaming services we’ve tested. It offers both an ad-supported and an ad-free tier. The ad-supported version costs just $4.99 per month, while the ad-free version is $6.99 per month. Discovery+ does not list a discounted, longer-term plan during the sign-up process, but you can purchase ad-free access for six months ($41.75) or a year ($83.75) as a gift. There doesn’t seem to be any system in place to prevent you from gifting a discounted subscription to yourself, so I would much prefer that discovery+ made these official options. New users can sign up for a free seven-day trial.
Although discovery+ isn’t directly comparable to most mainstream on-demand streaming services content-wise, it is cheaper than many of them. For instance, Disney+ costs $6.99 per month (this will soon increase to $7.99 per month), Prime Video is $8.99 per month, and Netflix’s Standard Plan is $13.99 per month. The ad-supported versions of CBS All Access and Hulu are both $5.99 per month, but their ad-free versions cost $9.99 and $11.99 per month, respectively.
Among live TV video streaming services that offer channels from Discovery, Philo is $20 per month, and Sling TV’s Orange and Blue plans are each $30 per month. FuboTV ($59.99 per month), Hulu + Live TV ($64.99 per month), and YouTube TV ($64.99 per month) also offer live Discovery channels and select on-demand content from those channels.
If you don’t want to pay for your entertainment, you have many free video streaming options. Our top pick for that category is NBC’s Peacock, because it offers an excellent range of mainstream movies and network shows. Peacock does offer an ad-supported version with more content for $4.99 per month—the same price as discovery+’s entry-level tier.
You can watch discovery+ via a web browser or download apps on mobile platforms (Android and iOS), media streaming devices (Android TV, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Roku), Xbox consoles (One, Series S, and Series X), and select Samsung smart TVs. PlayStation console owners are out of luck. Hulu is one of the few video streaming services we’ve reviewed that offers a dedicated app for the Nintendo Switch.
Discovery+’s website has a clean design and is easy to use. I didn’t run into any problems when browsing any of the sections or launching streams, and the site’s subtle animations elevate the experience. You navigate via a top menu bar with Home, Browse, My List, and Search icons. Below that is a contextual menu that segments whatever is on the page into relevant categories, such as genres or topics. To access your account settings, click the profile icon on the right-hand side of the page. Here, you can view your billing information (and manage it if you signed up via the web), switch between or create new profiles, or remove any devices someone else has used to sign in to your account. Discovery+ does not offer any two-factor authentication options.
The Home section displays notable streaming content, hubs for each channel on the service (and one for discovery+ originals), and various other horizontally scrolling lists of categorized content, such as Favorite Personalities, Featured, From the Vault, Hidden Gems, and Trending Shows. Discovery+ also includes a Continue Watching section and one for Recommendations. The Browse section includes everything in the library. You can filter the list by network or some provided keywords as well as just view everything in an alphabetical list. If you see something that interests you, hover over the show’s thumbnail to read a quick description or to add it to the My List section.
A show’s landing page includes a list of episodes, a short description, and a section for similar content. The episode list includes a runtime, parental rating, and original air date. Apple TV+ and Prime Video offer more detailed information about each show. Shudder, Mubi, and several other streaming sites allow users to leave reviews about shows or otherwise evaluate them with simple rating systems. Discovery+ offers neither of those options.
Search results are sorted into different categories: show, episodes, specials, collections, and extras. The My List section is a dedicated section of the interface for you to add shows that you plan on watching. Unfortunately, there is no way to sort the entries here; they are listed in reverse chronological order of when you added them.
I downloaded the discovery+ app on a Google Pixel 3 running Android 11 and had no issues logging in to my account. I didn’t experience any performance hiccups when using the app and its various sections are simple to navigate via the bottom menu bar. The sections of the app closely correspond to those on the web. You can create, edit, and switch between profiles from the app. The Account section lets you manage your subscription settings, toggle push notifications, or disable streaming over a cellular network.
Discovery+ does not support offline downloads for mobile devices—a significant missing feature. Nearly every other on-demand video streaming service we’ve reviewed, including Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Netflix, and Prime Video, offers this capability.
Discovery+’s playback interface on the web is basic but functional. In addition to the standard playback and volume controls, you get a button for closed caption options, as well as 10-second rewind and fast-forward buttons. You cannot adjust the streaming resolution, which is annoying. There’s no description of what you are watching, and you can’t add the current series to your saved list, either. On the mobile app, you get the same set of features, but it at least lists the series name and episode title. Both the web and mobile playback interfaces mark ads with small breaks in the progress bar.
Other services offer more advanced playback features. For instance, Netflix includes an episode selector and Prime Video has the IMDb-powered X-Ray feature that lists cast members in a scene and other tidbits about the program.
The number of ads you see on discovery+ depends on the type of content you watch. A 41-minute episode of Mysterious Planet had three ad breaks. The first two lasted for 60 seconds and the third ran for only 15 seconds. Some breaks included multiple commercials and others just had one. A 21-minute episode of Unwrapped had just one 60-second ad break. A 21-minute episode of Island Hunters had two breaks, each 60-seconds long. Although a paid service would ideally not serve ads at all, the ad-experience never felt unreasonable, even if I did see a few repeated ads. Anecdotally, Hulu’s commercial breaks feel more intrusive.
Discovery+ is generous with the number of profiles (five) and simultaneous streams (four) it allows. This is ideal for larger families or groups of friends sharing an account. For comparison, Netflix’s Standard Plan allows two concurrent viewers per account and HBO Max supports three. Disney+ does allow you to create seven profiles per account, but it offers the same number of simultaneous streams. BritBox tops them all with support for five concurrent streams.
Although discovery+ does not list the available streaming resolution for its content, most of what I watched looked to be at 1080p. Keep in mind that some older titles might not be available in that resolution. The service does support UHD (4K) streaming for many of its nature shows and documentaries (though you can search for other content available in this resolution, too). Support for this resolution is limited to compatible Fire TVs and Apple TVs. Apple TV+, CuriosityStream, Hulu, Netflix, and Prime Video are other video streaming services we’ve reviewed that offer 4K content. Discovery+ does not list any specifications for its audio quality. Apple TV+, Hulu, and Netflix support surround sound standards.
I tested discovery+’s streaming performance over my home Ethernet connection (200Mbps download) by watching an entry in the excellent Planet Earth series on the North and South Pole. The video quickly ramped up to full quality and the audio never got out of sync. I also watched an episode about volcanoes from the A Perfect Planet series on my phone over Wi-Fi (175Mbps download) and did not experience any issues streaming over that connection, either. Discovery+ does not list a minimum streaming rate, but it says it relies on an adaptive bit rate. Most people should not run into issues with the streaming performance.
Discovery+ offers closed captions for everything I watched. On the web, you can change these caption settings directly from the playback screen, including the text color, background color, font, and font size, but not the position they appear on the screen. On mobile devices, the only option is to toggle these captions on or off.
None of the content I saw included audio descriptions or a language option other than English. Audio descriptions are audible narrations of on-screen events that would not otherwise be discernible through dialog alone. Apple TV+, Netflix, and Prime Video are among the best services for audio description support. Apple TV+ offers tons of language options for its captions, too.
Discovery+ does not offer any parental control tools at the time of writing. That’s disappointing, since I could easily imagine a scenario in which a parent might want to let their child watch the many nature documentaries on discovery+, but restrict viewing of other age-inappropriate content. Individual episodes already list the parental ratings, so perhaps this feature is in the pipeline. We prefer those services that offer these controls on a per-profile basis, such as Apple TV+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, and Prime Video.
A VPN helps ensure the privacy of your internet activities and can spoof your apparent location online. That last part is particularly problematic for video streaming services that offer region-locked content. For example, discovery+’s US library is only available to US residents.
I tried connecting my desktop and phone to a US-based Mullvad VPN server and streaming content from discovery+; I was able to watch everything without issue. Next, I switched each device’s connection to a server in Sweden. On both platforms, discovery+ blocked my ability to stream. Even after I reconnected my devices to a US-server, the service refused to let me stream at one point.
If you do find that your VPN and discovery+ work well together, don’t take that as a guarantee that they will continue to do so. Many video streaming services continue to work on new ways to detect and block VPN traffic. You can always just disable your VPN when you use a streaming service, but make sure to turn it back on after.
At launch, discovery+ has a truly expansive library of content with the promise of more to come. Regardless of whether you like to watch nature documentaries, home-buying shows, history titles, travel experiences, relationship dramas, true crime exposes, or something else entirely, discovery+ has something that will entertain you. We also like the reasonable monthly price of both the ad-supported and ad-free tiers. It is missing a few features, however, such as support for offline downloads on mobile devices, parental controls, and audio descriptions. We also think the complete lack of truly live TV content is a missed opportunity.
Netflix and Hulu are our top picks for on-demand video streaming, because they appeal to wide audiences and have almost every feature you could want. CuriosityStream is also an Editors’ Choice streaming service because of its excellent library of documentaries and affordable price.Source