David Zaslav isn’t ready to commit just yet to the plan that Dish Network and Disney sketched last week to create a personal pay TV streaming service with most — but not all — of the leading channels. “The question is: what’s the legacy impact?” the Discovery CEO said today at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom Conference. “Does it have a negative impact?” Still, Zaslav sounds intrigued, saying that there’s a potentially big business if Dish or others can sell pay TV services to 2M or more broadband customers — including many young adults who are reluctant to pay $80 a month or more for a full expanded basic pay TV bundle. Dish’s deal with Disney “provided a lot of value to Disney” in the short run. But Zaslav says that he takes a long term view of the business and “we just have to see” the details and implications of a personal streaming service. The CEO also isn’t ready yet to pass judgment on Comcast’s planned $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The deal would give Comcast about 30M video subscribers. That’s “significant market share,” he says. “We’ll have to see what it means and how it plays out.” Zaslav has good reason to stay on the sidelines: Liberty Media’s John Malone is the biggest shareholder in Discovery, as well as Charter Communications — which wanted TWC until Comcast came in with a … Read More »
The firm behind shows including Gold Rush, Unexplained Files, and Dangerous Persuasions will have the freedom to expand into scripted programming and produce “high-quality independent films” following the deal, the companies say. They didn’t disclose how much Discovery paid for Raw, but say that it will “continue to operate independently from its London headquarters” with all of its current staff. “We are looking forward to Raw infusing our ever-expanding creative pipeline with compelling stories that will be seen on Discovery’s networks around the world,” Discovery Studios and Production Group President Lee Bartlett says. He adds that the deal is being unveiled on the same day that Discovery rebranded the Military Channel – now called AHC: American Heroes Channel. The two events illustrate “Discovery’s ongoing strategy of increasing investment in new brands, new content creators, new programming genres, and new opportunities across more platforms in more regions of the world,” Bartlett says. Read More »
In this week’s audio podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom look at the possibility that frenemies John Malone and Rupert Murdoch will combine and snap up the UK’s Channel 5, even as a booming ITV opts out; and Amazon’s new combination platter of Prime services that are challenging Netflix more aggressively in Britain, including through a partnership with the BBC to revive the cancelled period drama Ripper Street. They also preview those other big awards this weekend, France’s Cesars, and take their weekly look at the international box office, as both Frozen and The Hobbit 2: The Desolation Of Smaug continue to rack up huge cumulative grosses.
Global Showbiz Watch podcast 27 (.MP3 version)
Global Showbiz Watch podcast 27 (.M4A version)
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Are longtime frenemies John Malone and Rupert Murdoch about to partner on a UK venture? That’s the word on the street according to The Financial Times which reports that the Malone-backed Discovery Communications and BSkyB, majority owned by Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, are in talks on a joint bid for Britain’s Channel 5. The free-to-air broadcaster, which media entrepreneur Richard Desmond acquired for £103.5M in 2010, is thought to be seeking a buyer with about £700M to spend. The FTA channel has raised the antennae of several media companies with parties rumored to have shown interest including ITV, Turner Broadcasting, BT, NBCUniversal and Saban Capital. The latter is eyeing the possibility of merging Channel 5 with the UK’s Channel 4, creating the market’s third-largest broadcaster by audience. However, such a deal would require regulatory approval and the privitization of Channel 4. The discussions between Discovery and BSkyB have focused on the latter taking over Channel 5’s advertising sales operation, sources told the FT. Channel 5 is notably the home of Big Brother, although its contract for the show expires in 2015. The net also airs U.S. dramas like Under The Dome, CSI and Person Of Interest, but it’s previously dropped such titles as Once Upon A Time and Justified. Its weekly ratings hover around 4%.
Malone and Discovery, … Read More »
This should give the Discovery chief a little more job security at a time when the air is filled with deal talk following Comcast’s $42.5B agreement to buy Time Warner Cable. Liberty Media Chairman John Malone gave significant rights to his Class B shares — equal to about 29.5% of Discovery’s total votes — to David Zaslav in a February 13 arrangement just disclosed in an SEC filing. The Discovery CEO can vote them if Malone doesn’t choose to do so. And Zaslav has exclusive rights to buy them if Malone decides to sell. They’ll negotiate a price and, if they can’t agree, Zaslav has a right to match any deal Malone negotiates with someone else. The agreement is only good as long as Zaslav is CEO or on Discovery’s board. It recognizes “your successful tenure with Discovery” and expectation that it will continue under a new contract that runs to the end of 2019. There are a few caveats, though. The agreement doesn’t apply if someone buys Discovery, and Zaslav can’t give anyone else the rights to Malone’s shares. Malone controlled 6.1M Class B shares — about 93% of the total — when Discovery filed its latest proxy statement last year. The B shares have 10 votes apiece compared with 1 for each of the publicly traded … Read More »
In December 2012, Discovery Communications entered a strategic alliance with France’s TF1 and as part of the deal, it took a 20% stake in the group’s pan-European sports platform, Eurosport. At the time, Discovery said it had the option to raise its interest to 51% in two years. Today’s announcement accelerates that move by one year with Discovery upping its stake in Eurosport to a majority interest. TF1 will now retain a put option that could require Discovery to buy the remaining 49%. The flagship Eurosport network reaches 133M homes in 54 countries and 20 languages. It focuses on regionally popular niche sports including tennis, cycling, skiing, skating, and curling. The group also includes Eurosport, Eurosport HD, Eurosport Asia-Pacific and 24-hour channel and online hub, Eurosportnews. Following are the full details of today’s deal: Read More »
JB Perrette joined Discovery in 2011 as Chief Digital Officer. He’s since spearheaded the acquisitions of Revision3 and DeFranco Creative, as well as the launches of digital/online networks Animalist and TestTube, and the implementation of Skywire Live and Animal Planet L!VE, among other initiatives. The exec will replace Mark Hollinger who is resigning as president of Discovery Networks International after 23 years at the company. Perrette, who’s also a veteran of NBCUniversal, will oversee Discovery’s growing international business. Last year, the company acquired SBS Nordics and a 20% stake in Eurosport as well as launching TLC in the UK and growing overseas ratings by 25%. Perrette’s appointment comes two weeks after Discovery extended chief David Zaslav’s contract through 2019. Click over for full details of today’s news: Read More »
The conversations never became serious. Still, Scripps Networks shares are down 7.2% with heavy volume today after The Wall Street Journal reported that the company and Discovery Communications have “abandoned” the preliminary discussions. The fall brings Scripps’ stock price roughly back to where it was in early December, before Variety reported that Discovery was “mulling” an offer. The family that controls Scripps “didn’t appear ready to sell,” the Journal reports. The paper adds that representatives for the companies never got to the point of discussing a possible price. That jibes with what I was hearing: Discovery has its sights set on expanding overseas, but — like just about every major company — considers just about any opportunity. Scripps’ lifestyle programming could complement Discovery’s, and everyone’s weighing M&A at a time when interest rates are so low. Scripps’ market value is down about $856M today in late trading to about $11.1B. Discovery shares are down about 3.1% for a market value of about $19.8B.
The extension comes with a nice compensation bump for the Discovery chief, already one of the media industry’s highest paid CEOs with $49.9M in 2012. The goal is to make David Zaslav “a significant long-term shareholder in Discovery Communications,” the company says this morning adding that he “has committed to hold the majority of his equity from stock grants to term, furthering the alignment of shareholder and management interests.” Following a year when the company stock appreciated 36.2%, Zaslav’s annual salary will remain at $3M, but his target annual bonus for 2014 will go to $6.6M and rise by $600,000 a year until 2018 when it will be $9M, according to an SEC filing this morning. His 2011 contract set the target at $5M with annual increases of $500,000. By the end of March he’ll also receive 224,845 sign-on “performance-based restricted stock units” that will pay off if he remains on the job and the company meets undisclosed performance metrics at year end. He also will receive stock appreciation rights that pay off if the share price continues to rise. Zaslav will have a $1,400 a month car allowance and has personal use of the Discovery jet for 200 hours a year — although the company will only pay for the first 100 hours. The stock awards vest if someone else takes control of Discovery. “Securing David for the next six years recognizes his value to the enterprise, and provides continuity, strong leadership, and his trademark high energy to Discovery for many years to come,” company founder and Chairman John Hendricks says.
Here’s the company’s release: Read More »
Talk about a Discovery-Scripps Networks deal appears to be premature. Discovery execs are engaged in what-if conversations about the idea of bidding for the owner of HGTV and Food Network. But the company hasn’t prepared an offer, and doesn’t have bankers working on one, as it focuses on opportunities to expand its clout overseas, I’m told. Are Discovery execs intrigued by Scripps? Sure — its lifestyle programming could complement Discovery’s. And everyone’s weighing M&A at a time when interest rates are so low. So never say never. But there’s been no fundamental change recently. That may disappoint investors who became excited by Variety‘s report that Discovery’s considering a play for Scripps. Its shares rose 7.6% today to $81 — after touching an all time high of $85.73. Analysts had mixed reactions to the deal talk. Citigroup’s Jason Bazinet downgraded Scripps to “sell,” saying that Discovery’s focus on international expansion makes the excitement about a bid ”unwarranted.” Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger says that there’s a “persuasive strategic rationale” for a combo if Discovery can help open doors overseas for Scripps’ networks. Moffett Nathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson says that both companies have been grappling with soft ratings, so a deal “could help change the near-term U.S. narrative” to potential cost synergies. Wunderlicht Securities’ Matthew Harrigan is intrigued by Discovery’s “heft for affiliate fee wrangles” with cable and satellite distributors. And Macquarie Securities’ Amy … Read More »
Investors are excited by a report in Variety that says the matter was discussed at a Discovery board meeting today. Scripps Networks shares are up 15.6% in post-market trading to $87, which would be a new high and give it a market value of about $12.7B. The owner of HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel would be an interesting target for Discovery. CEO David Zaslav told investors yesterday at the USB Global Media and Communications Conference that he considers the U.S. cable market to be mature. This year he spent $1.7B for Scandinavian TV and radio company SBS Nordic and paid $222M for a 20% stake in Eurosport. He also looked at Liberty Global’s Chellomedia, which AMC Networks ultimately bought for $1B. Still, Scripps is one of the few, large independent owners of must-have cable channels — and investors have long wondered when someone would make a bid. Discovery CFO Andrew Warren told his shareholders in October that the company’s “first priority” is to invest “in our core businesses…be it through investing in existing networks and platforms or through exploring acquisition opportunities.” If Discovery owned Scripps it likely would try to persuade cable and satellite companies to pay higher fees for its content — about 69% of Scripps revenues last year came from advertising. Any bid would have to pass muster with the Edward W. Scripps Trust, which controls about … Read More »
This is a surprise: Discovery has been slow to grant streaming rights to its programming, waiting to see how much extra distributors would be willing to pay — and when Nielsen would begin to measure viewing on iPads and other mobile devices. But the planets apparently aligned for a new carriage deal with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks that the companies struck before their previous one expired. The companies say this morning that subscribers will “enjoy authenticated access [that's industry jargon for TV Everywhere] to Discovery content in the near future” in a deal that I’m told runs through the end of the decade. Some of the details still need to be ironed out: Time Warner Cable SVP for Content Acquisition Andrew Rosenberg says the agreement will provide subscribers with “a robust VOD experience” as execs “look forward to continually working with Discovery to provide more expansive out of home access to their content.” Discovery CEO David Zaslav told analysts last month that TV Everywhere is “a real benefit to the cable operator” but so far there’s been “a little bit of an impasse on value.” Discovery had held back from granting rights because “our deals [with cable and satellite distributors] haven’t come up yet.” But he added that he might reach an agreement before a renewal came up saying that “if we get the right value, we’ll do it. …We’re in a very good position … Read More »
Investors will be looking at the international numbers; Q3 was the first full quarter in which Discovery owned Scandinavian TV and radio company SBS Nordic. And at first glance it looks like things were OK for the company’s overseas ad sales, which had been a concern. Discovery’s net income of $256M was +24.4% vs last year’s Q3 on revenues of $1.38B, +27.8%. The top line barely missed expectations for $1.39B. Earnings for continuing operations, at 71 cents a share, were a penny shy of analyst forecasts. The U.S. cable networks generated $733M in revenue, +10.4%, and maintained their cash flow margin of 58%. Ad sales increased 12% to $383M while revenue from distributors was +10% to $329M with help from Discovery’s deal with Netflix. The international results were expected to be lopsided after taking a hit from last year’s Olympics. Revenues were up 59% to $620M, although the cash flow margin fell to 37% from 44%. Ad sales stood out, growing 127% to $282M. Distribution revenues increased 29% to $322M. If you factor out the newly acquired businesses and foreign currency fluctuations, revenues would have been up 18%. “Discovery’s strong third quarter results once again demonstrate the breadth and depth of our brands and the myriad of opportunities across our global distribution platform,” CEO David Zaslav says.
Discovery Communications has picked up The Five Families, a scripted series from Irwin Winkler and Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas). Written by Pileggi, the project is based on the real figures and actual events in the history of the famed five organized crime families of New York: Gambino, Genovese, Lucchese, Bonanno and Colombo. Discovery will produce Five Families, which will debut on one or more of the company’s U.S. and international networks.
Kevin Bennett has been promoted to general manager, Investigation Discovery and Military Channel, and EVP programming, ID, Military Channel and Destination America. He will continue to report to Henry Schleiff, Group President ID, Military Channel and Destination America. From the announcement: Read More »
BetaFilm debuted Sky Italia crime series Gomorrah on Sunday here at Mipcom. Based on the book by Roberto Saviano, the 12-hour series has secured deals with Sky Germany, HBO Nordic, HBO Latin America, Arrow Film in the UK and Lumiere for the Netherlands. Other negotiations are ongoing. Gomorrah is produced by Sky, Cattleya and Fandango in collaboration with La7 and Beta Film. The drama delves into the Camorra, the inner sanctum of organized crime in Naples. Saviano’s book was also the basis for Matteo Garrone’s 2008 Cannes Grand Jury Prize-winner Gomorrah. Stefano Sollima directs six of the episodes of the miniseries which is still in production. Claudio Cupellini and Francesca Comencini helm the remaining episodes. Read More »
Discovery Communications’ TLC today announced it had ordered two new projects that take viewers into “the hidden world of the FLDS church.” One is about about insiders trying to leave the church; the second follows an outsider who helps people break away. A sneak peek at the first, called Breaking the Faith, will air within the season finale of TLC’s Breaking Amish: LA, AMISH: LA this Sunday, September 29.
The FLDS religion remains one of the most secretive communities in America, a world of unquestioned authority, arranged marriage, and little contact to the outside world. Often in the headlines for its extreme beliefs and behaviors, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints continues to be led by its president – and self-described prophet – Warren Jeffs, despite his 2011 conviction on two felony counts of child sexual assault. With an estimated 10,000 followers of the church, no series has fully explored the experiences of individuals who choose to leave the compound – until now.
This fall, TLC premieres two new series that take viewers on a remarkable exploration of faith, fear, and strength, while providing very different perspectives: from insiders as they leave the faith, and from the outsider as they help people break away. The first, BREAKING THE FAITH, follows several young men and women who escape the community to start new lives. Then, ESCAPING THE PROPHET documents the efforts of former FLDS member Flora Jessup as she helps families flee the compound.
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