Although the goals were set independently, David Zaslav says that his joint venture with Oprah Winfrey is growing fast enough that it doesn’t have to expand to 85M homes — from 80M now — to fulfill his prediction that it will break even in the second half of 2013. “The ratings growth has been fantastic,” he told investors and analysts on Day 2 of the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. The “cherry on top,” he says, is that “we’re the home for Tyler Perry on television.” On Saturdays, OWN ranks first or second with black women, attracting more of the demo than ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC combined.
Zaslav’s comment about OWN reflects his overall optimism about the state of his company and the programming business. He acknowledged that ad sales were slow in October. Discovery was “hurt more by the Olympics than we expected” — in part due to his decision not to schedule strong shows against the games. But since the election both volume and pricing have been “quite good.” He warns that the outlook “could change a week or two from now” if there’s no compromise in Washington to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, although “it’s getting pretty late for [the negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff] to have an impact” in Q4.
On other matters: Zaslav says that he’ll wait to give TV Everywhere streaming rights for his content to pay TV distributors. Cable and satellite companies aren’t offering enough, and Nielsen still doesn’t count all the people who watch shows on iPads and other mobile devices. “Until it’s measured and until we get fair value from the distributors, we’re going to stay pat,” Zaslav says. He offered little new insight into his discussions to forge an alliance with France’s TF1. “We have a huge amount of content, very little of which gets into France,” he says. With the company’s pan-European sports channel EuroSport, and the ad system that supports it, “together we’d have more scale.”