Discovery CEO Sees Lower-Than-Expected Rate Of Increase In U.S. Ad Sales

Company working to shore up schedule at TLC, says CEO Zaslav

Citing ratings issues at two of its flagship cable networks, Discovery Communication’s chief executive suggested the company’s rate of growth in ad revenue during the quarter could be lower than expected.

Speaking to an investor conference organized by UBS, Zaslav said a lower number of season premieres in October and November had contributed to lower viewership at the company’s Discovery Channel. He noted that two popular programs, “Moonshiners” and “Gold Rush” had seen some ratings shortfalls year over year. And he noted that TLC “could use a steadier hand” to keep it from being driven by programs like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” that count on making an outsize splash in popular culture.

While the rate of increase  overseas ad sales are likely to be better than expected outside the United States, Zaslav noted that U.S. as sales would likely rise at a rate lower than the high-single-digit percentage range that had previously been expected.

Zaslav said other networks the company operated, like Discovery ID, were proving “extremely steady” and had “an astonishingly high” hit rate. But the company would have to make more of an effort to stabilize trends at TLC and Discovery, he said. “Discovery is coming back. We feel good about it,” the executive said.

Discovery in September installed Nancy Daniels to oversee TLC, known for such stuff as “Jon & Kate Plus 8” and “Cake Boss.”  She replaced Amy Winter, who stepped down in August and  remains with the network as its exec veep of brand marketing. “TLC is very culturally driven,” Zaslav noted. The company has in the past expressed a desire to add programming to the network that broadly appealing, to keep its viewership  from being overly dependent on a few shows that catch an outsize portion of viewership.

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