Zaslav: Serving the ‘Superfan’ a Major Key to Success

Owning content and global distribution rights also paramount, Discovery chief says
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As over-the-top video becomes more prolific and as consumers continue to alter their viewing habits, serving the “superfan” with curated content has become increasingly paramount, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav said here Wednesday (Jan. 10) at a CES keynote discussion at the Monte Carlo’s Park Theater.

For Discovery, that strategy, which Zaslav said emphasizes “enthusiasts and superfan networks,” will largely continue to focus on nonfiction fare.

That focus has also been a big driver behind Discovery’s proposed play for Scripps Networks Interactive, which offers a complement of networks and content in nonfiction categories such as food, home and gardening, travel and cooking.

“People not only … fall in love with the shows, but they fall in love with the curation,” Zaslav said, noting that the plan is not just to provide deep baskets of long-form content that suits their interests, but also smaller bites that can be distributed across all platforms.

“We think we can take advantage of that ecosystem by following the superfans and the enthusiasts for cars or science, or food or cooking, all around the world and sort of super-feed them,” he added.

Zaslav also stressed the importance of not just owning the content, but also owning the global distribution rights. Discovery owns all of the content on its platforms all across the globe, with the exception of its Eurosport offerings.

“We’re IP [intellectual property] long,” he said. “But we’re also betting that owning the windows for that content globally will give us really unique status.”

Zaslav also talked up the implications of smart digital assistants and voice navigation, noting that those technologies will provide another way for Discovery and others to provide complementary content in niches and genres that they care about, such as a recipe or instructions on how to build a bench.

Voice search “will be big in the way people consume content in the years ahead,” he predicted.

Zaslav and his fellow panelist, LionTree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff, were also asked to size up the M&A landscape in the TV and media industry.

Bourkoff acknowledged that it’s a “great time to be a creator,” but stressed that the business model for traditional industries doesn’t always align with changing consumer behavior. “And that is creating a lot of friction,” he said.

Bourkoff said companies with scale can sustain existing models longer than smaller companies, which will be the ones that need to seek out a dance partner.

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