Discovery Communications CEO 'Excited to Grow' OWN This Year

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"Oprah is now fully engaged with her creative leadership team, and OWN is off to a nice start in 2012," says David Zaslav, but the company didn't provide guidance on the network's expected profitability this year.

NEW YORK - OWN, the cable network joint venture of Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications, is off to a good start this year, and "we are excited to grow this network in 2012," Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav said on his company's earnings conference call on Thursday.

OWN, which struggled in its launch year 2011, established a foundation for Winfrey's presence this year, he said. "The network learned a great deal about its audience, developing a wide array of new content and formats," reiterated in comments to analysts on the call.
"Oprah is now fully engaged with her creative leadership team, and OWN is off to a nice start in 2012 with her hit show Oprah's Next Chapter setting viewing records for the network when it premiered," he added. "Oprah will be featured in additional formats throughout the year." 

Our America With Lisa Ling and Sweetie Pies are two of the shows developed last year that are back in 2012, he highlighted.

In a Q&A with analysts, Zaslav reiterated that he and Winfrey both have confidence in the current OWN team, following a slew of executive changes. He didn't comment on a question about whether Discovery would have the right to terminate its venture deal with Winfrey if OWN doesn't improve further or if the partnersmove OWN online. “We are up for about a year,” he said in a comment similar to previous comments that Discovery was looking at OWN as a longer-term business opportunity.

Asked about OWN's expected profitability in 2012, outgoing CFO Brad Singer said the company doesn't comment on individual networks in terms of profitability.

Zaslav on Thursday also lauded the "significant strides" of kids joint venture network The Hub, in which Hasbro is Discovery's partner. The channel built its audience every quarter last year, with the fourth quarter, which provided the first apples-to-apples comparison since Hub's launch, seeing a 31 percent gain in all-day viewership among kids 2-11. "With a great slate of both new and returning series…it is poised to build its audience in the year ahead," vowed Zaslav.


Twitter: @georgszalai

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