“We were very surprised by the fourth quarter, and we are little bit surprised is it better in the first quarter,” says David Zaslav, president/chief executive officer of Discovery, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference.
Zaslav says current scatter pricing is up by mid-teen percentages, and “volume is better [now].”
Still, Zaslav -- as well as other industry executives -- are scratching their heads: “We are all trying to figure out where the money is going. We are not sure where it went. There is no question in my mind some of it is moving to digital.”
Last year, Discovery had the problem of responding to a somewhat mediocre 2014 upfront selling period by holding back inventory in the hope to sell at higher prices in the 2014-2015 scatter ad selling periods.
That backfired. “We lost the bet a little bit as a industry; and we did as Discovery,” says Zaslav. “We thought scatter would be there. Pricing was strong, but volume just wasn’t there. And we felt it. We were hanging out with a lot of rating points we couldn’t sell.”
Things are looking up however -- especially viewership, says Zaslav.
He notes that Discovery Channel in the U.S. had a strong February where it was No. 1 among all male viewers -- including that of the sports channels. “Last year was tough year for cable networks in general. Discovery was just okay. It did a little bit better than average.”
Elaborating on earlier comments about slow-moving efforts around pay TV providers rolling out TV Everywhere -- where new digital over-the-top businesses have taken some share as a result -- Zaslav says:
“TV Everywhere should have happened four years ago; it should have happened three years ago... We are still rooting for TV Everywhere -- and it’s measured. If it doesn’t happened we are very well positioned; we own all our content.”
Discovery Communications witnessed strong stock market pricing on Tuesday -- closing up 3.6% to $34.00.