Discovery CEO David Zaslav on How Steven Spielberg's New Docuseries Fights Hate

Discovery CEO David Zaslav
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Discovery CEO David Zaslav

"Hate is significantly on the rise," Zaslav told the audience at Britain's Royal Television Society, speaking of Spielberg's 'Why We Hate' series, which premieres on Discovery next month.

Discovery head David Zaslav used his keynote talk at the Royal Television Society's annual Cambridge Convention in the U.K. to introduce the media giant's upcoming docuseries Why We Hate, a collaboration with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and Alex Gibney's Jigsaw Productions.

Zaslav revealed that the origins of the six-part series – described as an "exploration into the human condition for hatred and how we can overcome it" – began with a conversation he had with Spielberg five years ago.

"I said to him, 'What's the story you want to tell? What's the story you want when you and I are gone?'" he told the audience in Cambridge.

Half a decade on from that initial discussion and with Why We Hate preparing to launch on Discovery next month, Zaslav acknowledged that the subject of hate had become far more poignant.

"Little did we know five years ago where we'd be, and not just here in the U.K. or U.S. but everywhere in the world," he said. "For most of my life I thought things were getting better, that we were working toward better respect toward people. But we've found in the last five years that things are much more of a challenge. Hate is significantly on the rise. Hate connected to skin color, hate on people for religious reasons."

Zaslav also touched on the $300 million, 10-year deal with the BBC — the BBC's largest content deal in history — to stream its natural history shows everywhere outside the U.K. except China, saying that the the decision was fueled by a desire to have a "meaningful impact" on environmental issues.

"We're going to document the planet together," he said, claiming that the major turning point for him was seeing the influence of the BBC's groundbreaking Blue Planet series.

"I was blown away with the fact that the final episode of Blue Planet talked about plastics in the ocean, which gave rise to [former U.K. prime minister] Theresa May changing the laws on plastics," he said. "That was the moment I said we had to go all-in."

Zaslav was speaking on the second day of the RTS Cambridge Convention, one of the U.K.'s most high-profile TV industry gatherings.

Netflix's Reed Hastings is due to give the keynote discussion on the event's final day September 20.