U.S. television viewers should be able to access a true skinny bundle, costing about $10 a month with no sports, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav told analysts this morning. “I think that will happen,” he says. “It’s just a matter of when.”
His company as well as Viacom and AMC Networks have been talking to cable and satellite companies about a possible low-priced offering that would include their channels — but not expensive sports networks such as Disney’s ESPN.
“Sports is hyper-extended here,” Zaslav said in his company’s quarterly earnings call. As a result, existing services including DirecTV Now, Sling TV, YouTube TV and Hulu With Live TV have become “a bit of a stuffed turkey.”
“I see the skinny bundle in about 200 countries,” he added. “There is no skinny bundle here. The skinny bundle in the U.S. is a fiction.” When you include the cost of broadband, “the skinny bundle is $60 or $70. So it isn’t a skinny bundle. It’s a bundle. It’s a bundle that may be attractive to a small group of people.”
But that “will be rationalized” with “a bundle like everywhere else in the world that’s $8, $10, $12” a month, he says. Praising Netflix and Amazon, Zaslav says that “we as an industry need to complement that with a quality offering that’s a true skinny bundle in the spirit of what’s working around the world.”
It’s easy to appreciate why he’s eager to create a new option: Discovery’s new CFO, Gunnar Wiedenfels, noted that the company’s U.S. networks lost about 3% of their subscribers in Q1 vs the period last year — “a slight acceleration” from Q4.
That plus Discovery’s weaker than expected earnings report this morning drove its shares down about 5% in early trading.
Zaslav says he doesn’t have “a lot of visibility for the upfront” ad sales season. But it “feels steady as she goes.” He’s optimistic about Discovery’s position because “our ratings are up” and “our brands have never been stronger.”