The word discovery implies there’s something new to find, but I’ve spent the past few weeks steadily making my way through a show that’s been on the air for more than 20 years, thanks to
Thanks to House Hunters (and House Hunters International, alongside Tiny House Hunters) my days spent inside, working from home and doing nothing but watching TV, have transitioned almost exclusively to Discovery Plus. It exists as white noise in my apartment: the buzzing of couples arguing over whether to pay the full $560,000 for a house in the nice neighborhood closer to the cute bistro or take a chance on the $480,000 home that needs some work but is way under budget emitting from my TV set. From the time I start working until the second I’m beginning to wind down, House Hunters plays continuously on its dedicated channel housed within Discovery Plus.
“Our bet is when the world makes a full rotation, that the content people have chosen when they could choose anything on TV or cable, the content that they love and run home for — 90 Day, Fixer Upper, Property Brothers — they’re still going to love that,” Discovery CEO David Zaslav
Discovery Plus, home to shows from networks like HGTV, TLC, Investigation Discovery, and the Food Network, launched at just the right moment, when ambient television was becoming a fixture in people’s homes during the pandemic. Author and journalist Kyle Chayka referred
Streaming also makes ambient TV possible in a way cable television can’t because there’s a total ad-free option. Loud commercials that play every seven minutes cease to exist. Functionally, I have the option to throw on a House Hunters channel that streams episodes of the show 24/7 and forget about it. Streaming services are designed to make viewing as effortless as possible and keep people’s attention once they’ve started watching TV.
So far, it’s working out better than expected for Discovery Plus. The company has signed up
Zaslav chalked up the impressive initial signups as proof that “people really don’t change that much,” when talking to the Times. That’s probably true, but having an ad-free option that does for adults and college students what
There’s another term for this: waiting room television. Like daytime TV talk shows or new soap opera episodes, shows like 90 Day Fiancé, House Hunters, and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives are just interesting enough to catch someone’s fleeting attention, but they’re monotonous enough to not become total distractions. They simply exist to keep people entertained if they want but can float into the background if someone would rather check in on Instagram or read a book instead — or, in my case, work.
Discovery Plus still has a long way to go. There are basic product features that need to be fixed (finding on-demand videos instead of 24/7 channels is more difficult than it should be), and I haven’t seen any new series or specials that have caught my attention. Discovery also has to ensure that it’s keeping the vast majority of those who do sign up. For now, Discovery filled a need I didn’t know I had while working at home — pure, ongoing, ambient TV that I don’t have to think about for hours the second I hit play.