Programming

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 12/09/2009 09:17:04 AM Eastern

UBS 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.

March