EXCLUSIVE: I’m told this is part of Discovery Communications’ chairman David Zaslav’s channel-by-channel rebranding effort. The talks, which began as low-key chat months go, are revving up — focused on letting Spielberg create a Discovery digital network for high-end non-fiction series and documentaries. Zaslav, after all, is into “name” joint venturing: he turned over Discovery Kids to Hasbro, Discovery Health to Oprah Winfrey, and this is in that vein. (Under the 50-50 joint venture with Hasbro, for instance, Discovery will handle advertising sales and distribution, while Hasbro will provide studio-produced programming.) Problem with this strategy is that the follow-through has been lacking. Each of the joint ventures looks great on paper and in joint press releases but is having a hard time getting off the ground re management, programming, and so on. There are even rumors that Oprah will put out of chaotic OWN, which has seen management change after management change, and that would be a big blow to Zaslav’s plans. Unlike a lot of media companies, the niche cabler is doing well with its stock price up a whopping 80% this year — something Zaslav is obsessed by. Today, Discovery Communications reported its 2nd-quarter profit quadrupled (in part because of that 50% sale of Discovery Kids) as the cable-television network operator saw a 12% jump in overall ratings at its holdings. Discovery even saw 1% ad-revenue growth in its U.S. networks business. Revenue dipped slightly.
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