Discovery CEO Admits It Doesn't 'Make Sense' That Revenue Is Up Amid Viewership Declines

“But boy is it,” David Zaslav says

Tony Maglio

Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery

To any of our readers who don’t understand why dwindling TV ratings are not having a negative impact on ad dollars, you’re not alone. And you definitely should not feel dumb about that because one of the brightest CEOs in the business, Discovery’s David Zaslav, doesn’t quite get it either.

Zaslav tried his best to explain the situation Tuesday at the annual Credit Suisse media conference. He plugged Discovery+’s “ad-light” option in the process.

Always a salesman.

“Three minutes of commercials — as we’ve talked to our users — they’re used to 13 or 14 minutes,” he entered the subject. “We thought that everyone would want commercial-free, but three minutes is fine with them. The difference in satisfaction between no commercials and three minutes is very low. Three minutes is almost negligible.”

“And yet,” advertisers still “need access to video content,” Zaslav said, which explains those “massive” CPMs (cost per thousand impressions).

“You’ve got a lot of dollars chasing less,” Zaslav said. “It may not make sense that viewership is going down but revenue is going up, but boy is it.” 

And in a future where Netflix, Disney+ and whatever the result of the WarnerMedia/Discovery merger is on HBO Max and Discovery+ rule the landscape, which is what Zaslav envisions, only one offers space for commercials.

Zaslav will run the new company, which will be called Warner Bros. Discovery, after the deal passes regulatory hurdles and eventually closes.

“We’re gonna lean into that,” he promised. “That is a window to a lot more money.”

More to come…

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