Discovery CEO: SVOD Market Turning into ‘Street Fight’

On the heels of WarnerMedia putting a name (HBO Max) to its pending subscription streaming video service, Disney launching branded service as well as expanding Hulu globally, Discovery CEO David Zaslav says “chasing the same ball” (i.e. scripted digital content) with the world’s biggest media companies is not the company’s focus.

Speaking July 10 with CNBC from the Allen & Co. confab in Sun Valley, Idaho, Zaslav contends the bustling SVOD market is turning into a “street fight” — a scenario he believes Discovery has successfully side-stepped.

“[About] 50% to 60% of the content that people consume is not scripted series or scripted movies,” Zaslav said. “For us, it’s home [HGTV], food [Food Network], Discovery, Oprah, crime [ID], Chip and Joanna Gains [‘Fixer Upper’]. We own most of the golf [programming] in the world, most of the cycling. We have almost all [non-scripted] quality content. And we own it everywhere in the world.”

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With Netflix and Hulu expanding non-scripted programming, including documentaries and food-themed reality TV, Zaslav says Discovery’s market hold on food, home and crime-themed shows is not in threat.

“We’re pretty secure in our space,” he said. “People aren’t buying Netflix to watch a home [improvement] show. We think we have something very differentiated and people come to us for it. They come to us for it on all platforms in all languages.”

Yet, much of HGTV, Food Network, ID and Oprah content is consumed through traditional pay-TV channels — distribution under threat by over-the-top video.

Zaslav agrees the traditional linear TV business is in secular decline. But he said Discovery generated about $3 billion in free cash flow in its most-recent fiscal year.

The executive said Discovery dominates the female non-scripted market in the United States, with OTT video businesses targeting golf (outside the U.S.), cycling and natural history.

“We have a low to mid-single digit growth company, having nothing to do with all of the global IP that we own,” he said. “We think it’s sustainable that we can grow low to mid-single for the next several years.”

Zaslav contends streaming movies and TV shows has become commoditized with Showtime Now, HBO Now, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Apple TV all offering similar content.

“That’s why we did Scripps [Networks] acquisition, because we think people that love food are always going to come to food, people that love home are always going to come to home. So, we think that this is an ecosystem that will work together,” Zaslav said.

With Disney buying Fox, Comcast acquiring Sky and AT&T buying Time Warner, Zaslav dismissed suggestions Discovery would have merge with another major media company to remain competitive.

“We’re the largest independent media company,” he said. “We think some of the assets we have that we’re the largest international media company. We’re in 200 countries.

“But in the long run if we’re wrong, then we have the biggest assortment of IP in affinity groups that people love and we’re in every language around the world. We think that we’re going to win either way. We’ll be more valuable.”

Scripps Networks Programming Returns Discovery to Profitability

Television shows about food, home improvement, buying and selling continue to resonate with viewers and the fiscal bottom line of Discovery Communications.

The media company May 2 reported first-quarter (ended March 31) net income of $384 million compared to a net loss of $8 million during the previous-year period. Revenue increased 40% to $1.4 billion from $1 billion last year.

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Key to the economic turnaround: Discovery’s $14.6 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive in 2017, home to popular Food Network, HGTV (“Flip or Flop,” and “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines, etc.), Travel Channel and DIY Network programming.

Discovery is planning new programming and SVOD platforms around the Gaines and their Magnolia brands.

Other quarter highlights included previously reported 10-year global partnership with the BBC for subscription streaming video content as well as a resolution of the UKTV joint venture. Secured a new distribution agreement in the U.S. with YouTube TV, adding to broad inclusion across online TV platforms.

Indeed, Discovery in launching the HGTV brand in Germany and a golf-themed SVOD service (“Golf TV”) overseas with the PGA European Tour.

“In the first quarter we delivered a solid start to 2019, as we continue to power people’s passions through our loved brands and our owned global IP in genres that nourish audiences around the world,” Discovery CEO David Zaslavsaid in a statement.

Discovery Returns to Profitability Following $15B Scripps Networks Purchase

Discovery Feb. 26 reported fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) net income of $265 million following a net loss of $1.1 billion during the previous-year period. Revenue increased 51% to $2.8 billion from $1.85 billion a year earlier.

Spearheading the turnaround was last March’s $15 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks, including coveted brands HGTV, DIY Network, ID, TLC, Animal Planet and Food Network. Discovery also owns stakes in MotorTrend Group and Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

For the fiscal year, net income reached $594 million compared to a $337 million loss in the previous year. Revenue increased 54% to $10.6 billion from $6.9 billion.

Discovery has also invested hundreds of millions in sports programming in Europe, including Olympics rights and an over-the-top video deal for the PGA European Tour.

It also inked exclusive pay-TV and streaming deals with Chip and Joanna Gaines, the husband and wife team behind the hugely successful “Fixer Upper” franchise, and Christina El Moussa, the prettier half of the now-divorced from “Flip or Flop” husband/co-star Tarek El Moussa.

“2018 was a transformational year for Discovery, highlighted by our operational accomplishments, our strong progress in synergy generation and our overall solid financial performance, as we continued powering people’s passions around the world,” CEO David Zaslav said in a statement. “Discovery is a differentiated global content company, and we are optimistic that we will continue to build on all of our operating momentum to drive additional shareholder value into the future.”