David Zaslav's Discovery Communications is bucking the trend, and proving that content is king.
Despite the fact that overall cable ratings are flat and broadcast ratings fell 7 percent last quarter, Discovery grew US ratings 6 percent, with hit networks including "Investigation Discovery," "TLC" and "Animal Planet." And with 147 networks in 209 countries, international viewership grew 12 percent in the first quarter across all regions.
Discovery has consistently grown advertising and distribution revenue. Its one weak spot has been its high-profile investment in Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network, which the former company took a $330 million loss on at the end of the first quarter. But now Zaslav says that OWN should break even in the second half of 2013 — he says everyone just needs to give him some time.
Zaslav says OWN is "doing great right now," thanks to the fact that it has restructured so it's spending less on infrastructure, and more on content.
One big question swirling around the cable show is whether Netflix and other streaming video services are cutting into ratings. Zaslav says it's too soon to say, but in the meantime Discovery is cashing in on a new revenue stream. He says his firm has created a new "window" of content — 18 months and older — and offering it on these new platforms. Zaslav says he may be surprised — these new platforms may actually drive more viewing of the original programming. We'll be watching.
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