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Zaslav: Discovery preps ‘cost effective’ dramas

The president and CEO of Discovery Communications has described plans to push Discovery Channel more heavily into scripted programming as a cost-effective move.

David ZaslavQuestioned during an investors’ call on whether the move into drama would effect programming costs, David Zaslav said would not constitute a “significant increase in investment”.

New Discovery Channel president Rich Ross earlier this year hired John Goldwyn to oversee a scripted slate, potentially raising costs at the traditionally factual-focused broadcaster.

However, Zaslav said this would not be an additional financial burden. “What we see is a hyper-focus on blue chip and the quality content,” he said.

“We will be doing some stuff with John Goldwyn, who is great, but we think we could do scripted in a much more efficient way. We’re going to do it in more long-form as opposed to one-offs, and we’ll do it with content that could work around the world so we could share it across two-hundred and thirty countries.”

Discovery’s new international content chief, Phil Craig, told delegates at last month’s MIPTV market that he was looking at scripted programming that would be financed through the international arm.

The news came as Discovery posted first quarter revenues of US$1.54 billion, up US$126 million, or 9%, year-on-year. International revenues of US$735 million, up 10%, drove this figure., with US networks sales also growing 6%.

Adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortisation in the international segment fell 2%, but 10% growth in domestic US profit meant OIBDA was up 8% at US$568 million.

Overall Q1 net income was US$250 million, up 9% from the same period to March 31 a year ago.

Meanwhile, Discovery co-owned production group All3Media posted financial results for the 16 months to the end of December, posting turnover of £598.3 million (US$910.7 million). This was due to a switch to calendar year reporting after Discovery and Liberty Global acquired the UK-based business.

Underlying profits were £69.1 million, while operating profit was £10.2 million, down from £26.1 million in the previous 12-month period.