Discovery CEO sees value in sports streaming season passes

From left to right: Michael Kassan, MediaLink; Aryeh Bourkoff, LionTree; and David Zaslav, Discovery. (Ben Munson)

LAS VEGAS—During a CES Keynote discussion, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav discussed his company’s sports content strategy in Europe and how season passes for individual sports may have more value than simply aggregating a lot of different sports.

He described it in terms of Discovery’s goal to serve super fans—as it does through niche networks like Investigation Discovery—and bet that there are likely lots of fans that would pay to have all-encompassing access to certain sports via direct-to-consumer video products.

“We don’t need to own everything,” Zaslav said.

Whether Discovery pursues that sort of product launch, the company has been aggressively seeking out a variety of sports rights across Europe for its Eurosport streaming service. Zaslav said that Discovery has about two to three sports channels in every country in Europe and that it goes after deals with direct-to-consumer in mind. In the U.S., where he said sports rights have over-indexed, Zaslav said that’s harder to do.

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Despite his criticisms of sports rights handling in the U.S., he praised live sports for being a shared cultural experience, something which he said video aggregators tend to miss out on.

“People want to watch it together and then they want to talk about it on social,” Zaslav said.

But Eurosport doesn’t necessarily fit in with another of Discovery’s primary strategies of owning its own IP, something which Zaslav said that his company’s $14.6 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks will help.

“We’re IP long and we’re betting that owning that content globally will give us unique status,” Zaslav said.

While international distribution is a promising revenue opportunity for Discovery, the ability to go over the top and reach customers directly is also crucial, Zaslav said. He added that Discovery is already going direct to consumer through platforms like YouTube, Amazon and Facebook, as well as by offering its networks like ID through platforms including Amazon Channels.

Looking ahead for new ways to delivery Discovery content over the top, he envisioned aligning Food Network’s content with Amazon so people can access it through Alexa in the kitchen and then have Whole Foods deliver that food content directly to them.