Discovery CEO David Zaslav Talks Shot-In-Home Quarantine Shows: "You Need to Be of the Moment"

David Zaslav - Getty - H 2018
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery, Inc.

Zaslav told the Paley International Council Summit that HGTV and Food Network self-shot content had captured the cultural zeitgeist.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav forecasts high demand for his soon-to-launch direct to consumer streaming service, to be unveiled in December, because of a specific viewer: His mother.

"I had to go to my mom's house to get her on Disney+ so she could watch Hamilton. And she's watching Netflix, and she wasn't a Netflix subscriber," Zaslav told the Paley International Council Summit during a session that was webcast on Wednesday. The Discovery boss said demand for content from streaming platforms had dramatically grown amid the pandemic.

"COVID has got us consuming aggressively Netflix, Disney+, HBO, there's lot of offerings," Zaslav argued. At the same time, he discussed his giant library of unscripted content for HGTV, Food Network and DIY that more recently has been shot by network personalities from home during the COVID-19 crisis, and if its current appeal with audiences will last post-pandemic, especially as production costs have fallen.

"Some of it may feel hokey later on. But a lot of it may continue to work and the question would be why fly someone to a studio, go ahead, do it in your kitchen, go ahead and do it in your living room," Zaslav argued. Here he applauded his Discovery characters and their shows for catching a cultural zeitgeist as Americans continue to shelter in their homes.

"In the storytelling business, you need to be of the moment," he told investors. And Discovery's streaming content, including the upcoming DTC offering to be rolled out globally, differs in being a "companion" to the rival streamers with their scripted TV shows and movies, and not a competitor, Zaslav said.

"In the U.S., it's very crowded and they're banging against each other and they're competing for talent and shows and we're in our own space," Zaslav said. He also differentiated Discovery in not mirroring Walt Disney, WarnerMedia and other media giants in rejigging their entertainment divisions to drive their direct-to-consumer strategy by centralizing top management to focus on content distribution.

"We have created teams for each of our niches," Zaslav said of content made for HGTV, Food Network and other cable channels.

"It wouldn't work for us. And I don't know if it's going to work for them, this idea of creating one creative team, let me break down the walls at all of my verticals, whether it be sci-fi or entertainment or whatever the particular niches," he added.