Online Video Draws Mixed Reviews From Media Execs

Discovery CEO David Zaslav says company's content won't be online in near future

Complete Coverage: UBS Global Media and Communications Conference

More people than ever are watching video online, but monetizing this viewership is a whole other ballgame. At The UBS Global Media Conference in New York, executives from media companies, both of the new and traditional variety, were split on the platform’s potential.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav, speaking at the conference, said that despite the large content library that Discovery owns, viewers are unlikely to find any of it online in the near future.

"You won't find our long form content on the Web," Zaslav said. "There is no long form business model yet, we will be really careful [in that area]."

Cable networks also have affiliate agreements that often prevent them from syndicating their content online in a timely manner or at all.

FX relaunched its website this summer with full episode streaming. The player however offers a limited number of episodes and series, and posts them on an eight-day delay after they air in order to satisfy its affiliates.

"Cable companies simply do not want their content partners to put content online," said Jason Hirschhorn, president of Sling Media, at the UBS Conference.

Rather than dig into its library, Discovery is putting bite sized clips from its shows online, both on its own sites and on YouTube, where the company has a content partnership.

"[Viewers] aren't spending a lot of time watching full length TV shows on the internet, they are watching clips," said Turner Chief Research Officer Jack Wakshlag at a press briefing here Wednesday.

Rather, Wakshlag says, people continue to consume their long form content on television, both live and timeshifted via DVR.

Of course, just because traditional media companies are bearish on online video, does not mean that they should discount it altogether.

NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker’s quip from this year’s NATPE that content companies cannot “trade analog dollars for digital pennies” may hold true right now, but there seems to be some optimism that digital dollars could be around the corner. The trick is finding out what will make those dollars happen.

"The way we operate is to always think long term," said Jason Kilar, CEO of NBC Universal-News Corp. joint venture Hulu. "Those services that provide higher recall rates will do increasingly well going forward. I think [digital CPMs] go up, at least with services that provide that higher recall.”