Discovery CEO sees upside of TV Everywhere

Viewers to shape cabler growth

Once TV Everywhere broadband platforms are properly measured for viewership, programmers will likely negotiate with distributors as they seek more money for those online offerings, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav said Thursday.

Discovery has participated in early tests for broadband services in which consumers can watch shows online as long as they can prove they are cable, satellite or telco TV subscribers, but the company will eventually have to have “a value discussion with cable operators” once proper measurement is put in place, Zaslav said during a media conference hosted by Nomura Securities.

In the end, TV Everywhere services “will be a win-win for all of us,” Zaslav added. He suspects negotiations on fees will get done before Discovery’s carriage agreements for its 13 U.S. channel expire in a year or two. “It is the distributor’s ball,” he said, “and they want to run with it.”

Once again, Zaslav said he’ll be patient with OWN, Discovery’s joint venture channel with Oprah Winfrey, which has delivered tepid ratings since its launch in January. “It takes time to launch a network,” he said, adding it is not easy convincing viewers who tend to watch just eight to 10 of their favorite channels to try a new one. “We really like our hand (with OWN),” Zaslav added, saying he anticipates that Winfrey’s increased appearance on the network will help, as well as her library of episodes from her talkshow, which wrapped last month after 25 years. Those episodes will be made available to OWN in September.

As he has before, Zaslav emphasized that the viewers will help Discovery and Winfrey shape what the OWN brand ultimately becomes on cable.

Asked by analyst Michael Nathanson about the upfronts, Zaslav indicated that Discovery may not wait to see how the broadcast network deals pan out, as cable channels traditionally have. “We are focused on how do we get the best price we are looking for,” he said, adding that he hopes to wrap up sales in the next 30 days or so.