David Zaslav is making the rounds as Discovery’s incoming CEO, appearing at Tuesday’s UBS media conference in New York. He did a good job straddling Discovery and NBCU—appearing with an NBC logo on his shirt but answering questions about both companies. The big takeaway was that Zaslav will focus heavily on new media no matter where he hangs his hat. If cable nets don’t explore other platforms and the Internet, someone else will, he said. "If ESPN was just a sports cable channel today, it would be a fraction of the value that ESPN brings," Zaslav said. "If it was just a cable channel, I think you could argue that it wouldn’t have that much value in 10 years… History.com in a few years should be worth as much as the History Channel." He said it’s unclear how best to monetize these businesses (he doesn’t see advertising alone as the answer), but he believes content owners have an advantage. He said NBCU decided to be a big content owner and take all of its content "out for a ride" on VOD, iTunes, etc, with the goal of making a big return. "The challenge I’ve been fighting at NBC is to take that content to those platforms, but get paid a fair value for what that content provides… We’re having a ton of meetings with all these players because we recognize there’s an opportunity for both of us," he said. "We don’t know how to split the baby yet, but it’s another bite of the apple." Zaslav said the cable industry should create a uniform interactive platform including interactive elements for commercials nationwide. Unlike with VOD, programmers and operators would argue over how to split "pure incremental" money with such a model, he said, adding that operators seem receptive. The incoming Discovery chief also talked up brand vs ratings, noting that a small, niche audience in cable could bring enormous value from both a CPM and cable operator perspective. "If you try and make some of these niche channels too broad [to bring in more viewers], you’re going to get outside what you are," Zaslav said.
For more on Zaslav’s views on digital and new media—click here.
For more on his move to run Discovery starting in January—click here.