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Discovery’s “Shark Week” is one of TV’s more popular summer events. The company is building a new streaming offering out of its Bellevue, Wash. office. (Discovery Photo)

Entertainment giant Discovery wants to enhance its streaming offerings, and it is hiring 200 people in its Seattle-area office to make it happen.

The Information reported that Discovery is working with the BBC to build a global streaming service focused on science, history and animals, and it will include e-commerce and interactive elements. Several ex-Amazon employees are leading the push to staff up the company’s new Bellevue, Wash. office where the technology powering the streaming service is being built.

  • Peter Faricy, a former Amazon executive who helped build the tech giant’s Marketplace for third-party sellers, is leading the streaming push as the head of direct-to-consumer products at Discovery. And he brought in some former co-workers to help out.
  • Avi Saxena, a former vice president of Amazon Marketplace, is the chief technology officer of the direct-to-consumer business and also leads the Bellevue office.
  • Tyler Whitworth, a former director at Amazon, joined Discovery in April to head up product for direct-to-consumer.
Avi Saxena. (Discovery photo)

Discovery is putting serious horsepower behind its streaming push, and it’s also ready to make a major financial investment in the project. As The Information noted, Discovery executives said they planned to spend $300 million to $400 million this year on its streaming products.

Today, Discovery’s job page has more than 40 open positions based in Bellevue.

Discovery is defying the notion that it’s hard for an older business to land top tech talent. Big tech firms are getting so huge these days that they are losing their entrepreneurial feel, Faricy told The Information, and there’s an appeal to building something new from the ground up, even when it is with a more established company.

Discovery in the U.S. is a leader in un-scripted TV with channels including HGTV, Food Network, Animal Planet, and Discovery Channel under its umbrella. But it also owns several sports networks in Europe and has built streaming services for them.

With so much competition for consumer dollars between traditional cable TV and the ever-growing list of streaming services, new entries will have to do something different to win customers. Given the Amazon DNA within Discovery’s streaming division, it’s no surprise that the company is looking at e-commerce as a way to boost the appeal of its direct-to-consumer products.

In the interview with The Information, Faricy wouldn’t give details about the kinds of e-commerce tie-ins Discovery is considering for its global streaming network. However, he did give an example of something it’s done in Europe:

For example, with our PlaySports cycling network in the UK — they are the leading cycling network in the world. They have a brand called Global Cycling Network that, if you are a cycling enthusiast, it’s the must-participate-in community. They did a fun experiment where they bought 60,000 pairs of Global Cycling Network branded socks. It turns out that cycle enthusiasts get into socks. It’s like your currency for coolness. So when people go for a ride, they look at each other’s socks. Those socks sold out in a couple of days. So that, to us, is a signal from consumers. We are going to experiment a lot with things like that.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct Tyler Whitworth’s title at Amazon.

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