It may be a while and take some serious money before Discovery Communications makes its networks available via a TV Everywhere-type model. All agreements with distributors for Discovery's 13 networks call for TV-only distribution and don't allow for multiplatform extensions.
Speaking at a UBS investor conference, Discovery CEO David Zaslav said cable, telco and satellite operators that offer paying subscribers access to shows on the Web do so to attract and hold customers. Discovery wants compensation for helping.
"That's a goodie for them, and that means there should be some economic goodie for us," Zaslav said Monday.
There could be one-off negotiations with operators, but just about all of Discovery's agreements with distributors run until 2012 and beyond, when TV Everywhere might be part of a broader deal.
Before Discovery moves into the TV Everywhere model, Zaslav wants to ensure that Nielsen has found a way to sufficiently measure viewing off TV.
Separately, Zaslav said Discovery is looking for significant growth from its Investigation Discovery or ID network. It has commitments to expand its distribution to 80 million homes by April 1 and is changing ad sales strategy.
Under the leadership of Henry Schleiff, ID is currently in 72 million homes and will add the additional 8 million by the end of the first quarter. Discovery's sales staff will begin selling ID in January as a stand-alone network, rather than part of a broader package with other channels. The main goal: to make the ad prices more commensurate with viewership levels.
According to Zaslav, the challenge is "how do you get the CPM up?" The prices have been "quite low," partly because it has been "characterized as an emerging network."
Zaslav seemed to take the under-promise-and-over-deliver approach regarding expectations for January's OWN launch. "It's not going to be the right voice on day one. We're going to listen to our viewers, and it will take some time," he said.
Zaslav said partner Oprah Winfrey is "one of the rare talents that can generate talent," and many of the personalities she has helped cultivate will be on the network. He added that OWN advertising commitments have been strong, with "meaningful rates" and "multiyear deals."
As for the Animal Planet channel, Zaslav said when he joined the company, the network was making $25 million a year -- a huge under-performer. Now, with improved programming and marketing, it's making $100 million-plus, but he wants $200 million-plus.
"We still have to do better," he said.