CEO David Zaslav called the presentation at New York’s Alice Tully Hall “our coming-out party.” After a short video greeting by Oprah Winfrey, who hailed Zaslav for investing in OWN, he began with a nod to the origins of Discovery, which was founded in 1986. One of its architects, media mogul John Malone, “says to me often, Discovery is unlike any other company,” Zaslav said.
While Malone’s point was about the company’s educational and ecological mission, his message was interpreted in various ways throughout the 90-minute event.
“Discovery and Scripps belong together,” said ad chief Jon Steinlauf, a Scripps vet who was given the top sales job earlier this year. “We used to say (at Scripps), ‘Life lives here.’ That life, and our world, just got a whole lot bigger.”
Steinlauf noted that the combined companies, on a pro forma basis, together produce 8,000 hours of new original programming a year. Plus, he noted, “97% of our ads are viewed live. … People watch us the same way they watch news or sports or special events. They watch us live, ads and all.”
Zaslav emphasized another advantage: “We pretty much don’t have actors,” he said. “We have authentic talent.” Costs are more manageable, and competing with the 500 scripted shows doesn’t factor into the company’s strategy (OWN is the one outlier, sticking to its scripted guns with shows like Queen Sugar and Greenleaf.)
“We’re the rare company with strong brands and owned IP,” Zaslav said. “We don’t have viewers. We have fans.”
As the screen showed some of the 500 scripted shows airing in 2018, Steinlauf said “nearly half” of them are on subscription streaming services or premium cable. “This may be the era of peak TV,” he said. “But in scripted it isn’t the era of peak ad viewing.”
He went on to describe the TV landscape as “two worlds – one where it’s difficult to get your ad seen, and another where it’s not. … Together, we’re a different kind of media company.”