Discovery, Inc. (formerly Discovery Communications) is a mass media company based in New York City. Established in 1985, the company primarily offers media that is focused on targeted, passionate audiences.
The company’s core operations consist of a group of non-scripted and factual television brands, such as the namesake Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and TLC. In 2018, the company acquired Scripps Networks Interactive, adding Food Network, HGTV, and Travel Channel to its portfolio. Discovery also owns or has interests in local versions of its channel brands in international markets, such as Eurosport, GolfTV, Discovery Communications Nordic, TVN Group in Poland, and a portfolio of various free-to-air channels in Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
In 2016, as the entertainment media industry was changing rapidly, Discovery’s leadership realized they needed to change with the times. But they also saw an opportunity to grow and innovate. Their overarching mission was to facilitate the rapid development of new content and amplify when, where, and how they delivered content to consumers.
This case study examines how Discovery, Inc. approached this turning point as an opportunity, what they did to set themselves apart from the competition, and how, with the partnership of Rapid7 InsightCloudSec they evolved into an industry disruptor.
Companies that offer cloud-based streaming for media and entertainment content are now ubiquitous. Between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and AppleTV, our favorite programs and movies are accessible, available, abundant, and affordable. But that wasn’t always the case. If we rewind 10 years, the industry was substantially different. Streaming services in the media and entertainment industry were beginning to bloom, but traditional cable network offerings dominated the industry.
Through the leadership and vision of CEO David Zaslav, Discovery embarked upon an 18-month journey to transform itself into a cloud-first company. Though the solution was straightforward, it was by no means simple. The enterprise was smaller in 2016, but it was still a large and complex business with many diverse entities. Discovery realized almost immediately that they needed to approach their transformation strategically. To become cloud-first, they needed to build out their cloud strategy, make commitments to their business units, and ensure they could follow through with those commitments.
Discovery leadership charged the IT team to lead the transformation. Rather than managing the details of each business unit, the team chose to oversee governance at a strategic level. The shift away from being actively involved in daily decisions in favor of strategic leadership is a challenge for many traditional IT teams that are perhaps still building the railroad but no longer driving the train. The Discovery IT team pivoted to enforcement and compliance, enablement and amplification, and strategy and planning. The shift away from undifferentiated heavy lifting and toward being a technology enabler and strategic partner proved to be extremely powerful for the team and the enterprise at large.
Discovery knew that being multi-cloud was inevitable. They built their strategy, people, processes, and systems with the expectation that they would be:
Trying to move from a single-cloud strategy into a multi-cloud strategy required a sound foundation to avoid financial and logistical inefficiencies.
The IT team selected InsightCloudSec to facilitate the strategic shift toward technology enablement. InsightCloudSec’s innate ability to support multiple cloud service providers offered Discovery reassurance that their diverse business units could have the freedom to use the tools of their choice without creating chaos at the enterprise level. InsightCloudSec compliance packs enforced Discovery’s policies from a top-down approach while offering business units a refreshing level of autonomy and freedom.
Discovery’s desire to harness the agility, speed, and self-service nature of the public cloud without sacrificing their best practices, security, and compliance required full-scale policy enforcement from the very start. While their developers were disciplined and built their products to have good availability and support compliance and auditing, they found that having well-defined standards allowed them to quickly find and initiate remediation for any exceptions.
As a trusted partner, InsightCloudSec allowed Discovery to tap into the agility, speed, and self-service nature of the public cloud while ensuring that the business units upheld the policies for security, compliance, and governance.
Discovery leadership challenged themselves to ask tough questions. At the very beginning of their cloud journey, Discovery contemplated the state of the entertainment media industry and asked why broadcast television used on-premises solutions almost exclusively. Someone must lay the groundwork to drive the industry forward. Discovery risked the unknown for substantial reward, and they know they must continue to do so to remain relevant in the ever-changing media landscape. InsightCloudSec was a match for Discovery’s enterprise mindset of forward-thinking and innovation.
Discovery has become a leading consumer-focused, content-first corporation. They have built and nurtured their base of superfans through technology reinvention and transformation. Discovery is one of the few media companies running all of their offerings from the public cloud as well as hosting these new interactive consumer platforms. As an organization, they encourage their developers to think outside the box, test ideas, and take advantage of the many services that cloud service providers offer.
Their cloud footprint encompasses over 240 environments spread across several cloud service providers and contains more than 7,000 compute instances and more than 44 petabytes of data.
Discovery’s use of InsightCloudSec has grown consistently over the past year. There are more business units, including the InfoSec and MotorTrend teams, that are now using InsightCloudSec. They have embraced automation through InsightCloudSec’s Bot Factory, which has enabled them to take corrective action to resolve routine issues and notify the right people of issues requiring elevation.
Discovery embraced their transformation from a “command and control” posture to “trust, but verify.” They gave their developers the power to innovate rapidly and build products that satiate the consumers’ constant appetite for content while remaining secure and compliant.
In 2018, Discovery acquired Scripps Networks Interactive, which owned the Food Network, HGTV, the Travel Channel, and several international assets. Discovery’s ability to scale rapidly to accommodate these new components was due to the flexibility of being a cloud-first company. The acquisition would have taken much longer outside the cloud because they would have had to integrate another entity’s hardware and infrastructure requirements into theirs. Less than 12 months after acquiring Scripps Networks Interactive, Discovery had achieved a single security, collaboration, corporate, and sales system to support their business needs. At the same time, they were able to deliver numerous industry-first solutions related to cloud media processing and playout and technology operations.
Food Network Kitchen is one of Discovery’s consumer apps that was made possible by becoming a cloud-first enterprise. The Food Network Kitchen subscription offers live, interactive cooking classes. Discovery has transformed the concept of an “episode” into an “event.” The subscription also offers 800 on-demand classes, 3,000 instructional videos, and grocery and equipment delivery. The video programming features recognizable talent and star chefs like Martha Stewart and Bobby Flay. This subscription service epitomizes Discovery’s mission to provide consumers with a revolutionary experience, all made possible through the use of cloud services.
MotorTrend Group brings together Discovery’s vast digital, direct-to-consumer, social, and live event portfolio focused on the auto industry. It includes the world’s only streaming video-on-demand service dedicated entirely to automotive content. The company’s approach to such highly targeted, informative content has proven successful. They have 500,000 subscribers and over 2 billion monthly content views.