UBS Media Conference: Zaslav Says Channel Branding a Priority
Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav says tapping Peter Liguori part of strategy to define services, aims to close cable-broadcast ad-price gap
By Claire Atkinson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/9/2009 9:17:04 AMUBS Media Conference: Complete Coverage
Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav updated investors on his company's plans to grow, emphasizing the need to brand its services more distinctly.
Zaslav explained that the move to tap former Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Liguori as chief operating officer was intended to help the channel provider define its services more clearly.
Liguori, whose appointment was announced Dec. 6, is also the point man for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, which is gearing up for launch January 2011. The company would also like Liguori to develop a closer relationship with Creative Arts Agency, which had a hand in bringing Discovery and Oprah Winfrey together, along with the wider Hollywood community.
"Peter is a great marketer; he was head of marketing at HBO and created FX net, and he'll work with us as a team to figure out what our brands are," said Zaslav. "You should know what a Discovery show is; if it isn't on brand, it hurts your CPM. We really need to figure out who we are."
Zaslav praised TLC saying it had done a great job of using reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8 to bring viewers to shows like Cake Boss and Say Yes To The Dress, but had previously put on too much star-driven content.
While programming plans for OWN have been kept very close to the vest, Zaslav hinted that some Oprah spin-offs might gain a cable window. He said Winfrey would be on the channel in a "meaningful way," and added, "Dr. Phil, Nate Berkus or Gayle King, there's a ton of great talent Oprah's developed, almost all of which we'll look to have on the network."
The calendar advertising market, which sees marketers commit money in cable for the January through December period, accounts for around 8% of Discovery inventory, said Zaslav. Last year the calendar upfront was very small for cablers. This year the company has higher hopes.
"Fourth quarter guidance is that we're seeing more than double-digit increases in CPMs and more meaningful volume," said Zaslav, though he was cautious about predicting the future. "It's gotten better week to week."
Mentioning the 30% price differential between broadcast and cable, Zaslav said that would be "hunting ground" in 2010 for Discovery sales. He also suggested Discovery would become more aggressive in the field of product placement, citing Ford's participation in the show Dirty Jobs.
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