David Zaslav didn’t want to directly address reports that he’s considering a run at UK independent TV production power All3Media and weighed a bid for the country’s Channel 5, which Viacom just agreed to buy. But in an earnings call with analysts this morning the Discovery CEO left the door open for a deal, and protected his negotiating leverage by saying that he could easily walk away. “We look at everything but only want to buy assets that will help us strategically,” he says. “We’re in the 4th inning in terms of our growth strategy internationally.” While he says that Discovery can grow organically and doesn’t “need to buy anything,” it also wants to be “opportunistic.”
Execs were a little defensive after Discovery reported slightly disappointing results for Q1, which led the stock to open -3%. The company volunteered that Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network has grown so much over the last year that it was able to pay back $16M vs last year when Discovery had to funnel $14M to the channel. And while Discovery Channel was “hit hard by the Olympics,” Zaslav says, its ratings “did rally and we’re up 12% in prime [time] in April.”
The CEO says he’s open to the idea of selling his programming to new online ventures being contemplated by companies including Dish Network, Sony, and Verizon. “This is the best time to be in the content business when you own your own content,” Zaslav says. “We’re platform agnostic.” The company also is high on opportunities to license programming to online subscription VOD providers. “We didn’t do a deal with Amazon, but we still may…..You’ll see some SVOD deals from us.” He also predicted strong sales in the upfront ad sales season, but didn’t offer specific targets.
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