David Zaslav believes Discovery’s focus on factual content and sports will differentiate it from globally dominant rivals such as Netflix and has suggested that fear lies behind recent mega-deals for shows such as The Big Bang Theory.
Discovery CEO Zaslav has overseen a fast-growing operation over recent years, expanding the reach of its Eurosport operation and leveraging content from the recently acquired Scripps Networks around the world.
Zaslav told the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention that he wanted his company to be in “the niches that people are passionate about” but did not want to become embroiled in scripted.
Talking of HBO Max’s recent deal for exclusive rights to hit comedy The Big Bang Theory, Zaslav said the five-year agreement – reportedly costing between $600m and more than $1bn – suggested there was a rush for product.
“That deal says to me, holy shit we’re in trouble here,” Zaslav said, adding that such deals imply companies “don’t care what it costs” but just want acquisition execs “to go get it.”
“That is not the business we are in,” Zaslav said. His comments come after similar deals that have seen the WarnerMedia streamer acquiring Friends for $425m, while Netflix secured Seinfeld in a similarly rich deal.
Zaslav said that he wanted to keep Discovery’s focus on its core interests, adding: “Yes, I want to see my scripted series but I still love golf and science and natural history and food.
“We think that [scripted-focused services] have to continue to fight because they’re splitting it eight ways. We’re just going to lean aside and let those guys have their way with each other.”
Zaslav, who admitted he expected further consolidation within the industry, also talked up Discovery’s recent natural history deal with BBC Studios and added that his company also wanted to capitalise on viewers watching its cycling, food or golf programming, by enabling them to then purchase relevant products.
“Netflix has 150 million subscribers who pay and do nothing else. If we can aggregate millions of people into buying cycling, vacation or food products, we have a positive view and concept that ultimately benefits from the perspective of value creation and multiples.”