Skip to main content

Zaslav Says Discovery's Talking to Streamers

Discovery Communications might finally be ready to make some of its programs available digitally.

During Thursday’s conference call to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings, CEO David Zaslav said Discovery is talking to the Netflix and Amazons of the world that are starting to shell out serious money for content they can stream to subscribers.

“We sat out the use of our long-form content on the Web . . . because the economics weren’t there,” Zaslav said. Discovery now puts only clips from its shows online. Discovery also has said it supports TV Everywhere, but hasn’t made any deals with distributors to put shows on laptops, tablets or smart phones. But things are changing.

“There’s probably never been a better time to be in the content business, particularly when you own your content. We have a 20-year library. We’ve converted into HD and digitized it. And a lot of that is content that really works and has a long life. So the good news for us is that we own all of our content,” he said. “And for the first time, in terms of older windows, there were a number of players out there that are interested in offering that content in different ways, whether it’s Netflix, Amazon, Google. Wal-Mart announced the other day that they are starting a service. And so all of that, directionally, is an opportunity for us.”

Zaslav said that Discovery is working through getting the right value for its content when it does a deal with a streaming distributor. “It’s very encouraging to have a number of new players out there that are looking to offer existing content to consumers and that the consumers are starting to like the opportunity, to consume it. So for us, we think it’s good, and we continue — we’re talking to all of them, and we’ll continue to talk to them,” he said.

Another new technology is developing more slowly that Discovery had hoped: 3D.

“The good news for us is that we’ve gotten a lot of experience with it. If it transitions into a technology where you don’t use glasses and it becomes robust, we’ll be there,” Zaslav said, adding, “there are a number of markets where distributors feel like they need to hedge, even though the consumer demand isn’t significant yet, that from a brand perspective it’s important for them to have 3D or be a leader in 3D. And so the fact that we have it is important.”

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.