Discovery CFO Says TV Group "Locked and Loaded" for Fall Season Premieres

Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels - H 2016
Courtesy of Discovery

"We are going into the fourth quarter with a very strong pipeline," Gunnar Wiedenfels told an investors conference.

HGTV and Food Network viewers should get set for a September full of new TV show premieres, Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels told an investor conference on Wednesday.

"We're coming in locked and loaded," he told the Bank of America Securities 2020 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference during a session that was webcast.  As the coronavirus pandemic has pushed scripted series premieres for rival TV networks to October and November, Wiedenfels said Discovery had a raft of new feel-good and escapist programming ready to keep channel viewers engaged.

"We do have a lot of very effective content on air. We are going into the fourth quarter with a very strong pipeline, against some of the competitors we're dealing with," he argued. Unlike rival Hollywood TV networks that rely on scripted dramas and comedies that have been slower to return to production, amid safety protocols, Discovery has more popular reality TV shows and other unscripted fare.

Besides replacement programming, Wiedenfels reported around a third of Discovery shows that were forced to shut down amid the pandemic had returned to production. He also argued the company behind such cable networks as the Discovery Channel, TLC and OWN had fared better than expected during the coronavirus crisis.

Wiedenfels said advertising spending had improved in July and August after an initial novel coronavirus pandemic hit, and Discovery's international operations, while also affected by the COVID-19 crisis as it started in Asia, were also bouncing back.

"We're seeing some positive signs. Markets are gradually going back to normal," Wiedenfels revealed, while cautioning the recovery was "fragile" as COVID restrictions return to key markets like Spain and the U.K.  He added it was too early to call a bottom for the Latin American market.

"We all know how quickly things can change, but what we're seeing in our booking situation, July and more importantly August, look a little better," Wiedenfels told investors.