Discovery Int'l Boss Outlines Top Priorities Now That Scripps Deal Has Closed

JB Perrette, head of Discovery Networks International - P 2014

"One of the most exciting things for us internationally is 80 percent-plus of the content that's been produced" by Scripps "has never seen the light of day internationally," says JB Perrette.

With Discovery Communications having completed its $14.6 billion takeover of Scripps Networks Interactive last week, the company is now focusing on reaping the strategic benefits of the big deal.

JB Perrette, president and CEO of Discovery Networks International, told THR that on the international front, his team has three early priorities.

"Number one, obviously we have two organizations and teams that we need to work expeditiously on pulling together into one team," Perrette said. "Inevitably, that's always a bit of a delicate and sensitive issue, but we're going to do it sensitively, as we always [do], but ultimately we want to move quickly to pull together one team that takes the combined portfolio forward."

The second priority is content. "One of the most exciting things for us internationally is 80 percent-plus of the content that's been produced over all those years by the strong Scripps team has never seen the light of day internationally," he said. "So, for us the ability to now take our unparalleled distribution network, both traditional free-to-air, pay, increasingly digital, and figure out how do we take that great content and maximize it across existing networks, new networks that we want to launch and potential digital products in certain markets, that's another priority."

Priority number three is looking for possible new digital products. "The incredibly strong affinity groups that they have lend themselves to digital products that are less about international, but more global," Perrette explained. "So as we think about food and travel and home, a big part will be how do we take those verticals, similar to what we are doing with the motor trend product in the U.S. and some other products, and try to develop and roll out new digital products in those verticals."

Any top Scripps network brands that will be in focus for more international distribution early on? "Both of their flagships, Food Network and HGTV, were later to the international party and are under-distributed," the Discovery International boss said. "But it's not going to be a one-size-fits-all model. Ten years ago we might have said we want to have each of the channels distributed in every market on a traditional pay TV platform. It will be a much more tailored approach depending on the market and the region."

For example, "in some markets where they have free-to-air networks already, such as in the U.K. and Italy, it's about figuring out how do we do more either with their free-to-air networks or in combination with our free-to-air networks," Perrette said. "In some cases, it may be programming blocks to help drive the brands' visibility and awareness on much more distributed and higher-visibility channels within our portfolio."

In other cases, it could be about launching digital-only products, he suggested. "It will be very tailored to the market dynamics of each of the appropriate markets," Perrette said.

Superfans will remain a key focus for the enlarged Discovery. After all, superfans are "our differentiator in this world of a lot of change in the traditional media landscape," he said. He also reiterated that while many entertainment companies are focusing on scripted entertainment, Discovery is "all about these verticals, and owning vertical categories and superfans in enthusiast communities." 

That focus will also help with continuing to serve advertisers now that the Scripps deal is closed. "Everywhere you turn, there is more and more questions or consternation from marketers about quality and how they want their content to be viewed," Perrette explained. "What we stand for across all our brands is quality, premium, purposeful. Marketers have been for a while, but will be increasingly gravitating more and more towards ensuring they get all those things with scale."