David Zaslav, President & CEO, Discovery Communications, the leading non-fiction media company in the world, told an audience of technology business executives at the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s (NVTC) Titans Series Breakfast this morning that new media technologies are necessary to increase a television company’s market share. He provided the technology executives with insights into why and how his cable company has become a content and media company and he outlined the business strategy involved in Discovery’s $250-million purchase of the online search engine HowStuffWorks.com which was announced on Monday, adding a key element to its network’s growing digital presence and enabling Discovery to link relevant advertising to online articles.
Zaslav realized the power of new media technologies during his tenure as president of NBC Universal’s Cable and Domestic TV and New Media Distribution and has used this knowledge at Discovery Communications. In his speech, he noted that the strategic launching of any new channels must include taking a “deep dive online” or utilizing other digital media to reach viewers. The key to success in implementing a new media strategy is to understand “the behavioral side of technology,” he told the NVTC audience. Forcing a technology into the marketplace won’t add any value to the bottom line of a TV company if consumers won’t adapt to or use it.
Today’s TV “culture” is significantly different than that of just a few years ago, Zaslav said. He noted that TV viewing historically had been a “click channel” culture — technology was used to simply change channels. However, during the past several years, something revolutionary happened — people now want their TV experience to be interactive — beyond the remote control. Therefore, the use of new technologies that provide interactivity have become critical to a TV company’s growth and financial success, according to Zaslav.
To ensure Discovery Communication’s growth despite this trend, he said that, in addition to seeking out and using consumer-friendly new media technologies, the company had to make its brands stronger and refocus its programming on shows that get back to the core of what Discovery is all about — i.e. “satisfying curiosity and providing new knowledge and a sense of adventure and exploration.” The “Planet Earth” series, which met these programming criteria, was a huge commercial success and, when it was launched earlier this year, it was ranked the number one or two series on cable television in terms of viewership, according to Zaslav.
Discovery Communications also is expanding internationally at a rapid pace. Currently, two of its networks — the flagship Discovery Channel and Animal Planet — are broadcast in 173 countries around the world. The ease of transmitting this programming to billions of people is due to technology — all that needs to be done is to “push a button.” Last year, Discovery Communications had $3 billion in revenue, with $722 million in operating cash flow.
The Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) is the membership and trade association for the technology community in Northern Virginia and is the largest technology council in the nation. NVTC has about 1,100 Member companies representing more than 200,000 employees. Its membership includes companies from all sectors of the technology industry and the service providers that support these companies, as well as universities, foreign embassies, non-profit organizations and governmental agencies. NVTC is recognized as the nation’s leader in providing its technology community with networking and educational events, specialized services and benefits, public policy advocacy, branding of its region as a major global technology center, initiatives in targeted business sectors and in the international, entrepreneurship, workforce and education arenas, the Equal Footing Foundation that focuses on venture philanthropy and public/private partnerships, and The Entrepreneur Center @NVTC to mentor new technology entrepreneurs.