Discovery CEO warns of ratings woes at Discovery and TLC

Ratings woes at two channels has Discovery Communications Chief Executive David Zaslav lowering advertising revenue expectations with Wall Street.

Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference on Monday in New York, Zaslav spoke positively about growth overall at the cable programming giant but noted that the cable networks Discovery and TLC have had a rough fall.

"We have seen some soft ratings on Discovery and TLC," Zaslav acknowledged. Among the shows Zaslav cited specifically as not delivering as hoped were Discovery's "Gold Rush" and "Moonshiners."

The lower-than-expected ratings at Discovery and TLC means the growth of ad revenue for Discovery Communications in the U.S. also will be less than expected.

While Discovery and TLC are in a little funk, other channels, including Discovery ID and OWN, the network that Discovery operates in partnership with Oprah Winfrey, are both on a roll.

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"When people hear that name, they feel good about it," Zaslav said of OWN. The network struggled after its launch almost two years ago. But some executive changes and greater involvement from Winfrey both in front and behind the camera have improved the network's performance.

Asked about the growing desire of viewers to watch content on other platforms beyond television, Zaslav acknowledged the need of content companies to get programming to people the way they want to watch it but also warned that so far the dollars aren't following the eyeballs.

"The economics just aren't there yet; we're not making much money," he said of streaming content. "We need to figure out a model if more viewing moves to streaming."


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Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.


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