Discovery CEO Touts Comcast, Olympics Deals, Improving Ad Trends

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav

David Zaslav also discusses new TLC shows and a recent deal to buy full control of Eurosport.

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav on the company's quarterly earnings conference call on Wednesday touted the cable networks group's recent carriage deal with Comcast and a European rights deal for the Olympics. He said this summer's deals were "pivotal" and wuld position the company for continued growth.

Zaslav also touted signs of an improving advertising market so far in the third quarter. The U.S. ad market has "picked up," with volume looking stronger in the third quarter so far. "The third quarter seems to be accelerating," he said, while cautioning it was still early days. "But it feels good right now," the CEO concluded. In the second quarter, Discovery's U.S. ad revenue was unchanged compared with the year-ago period.

The Comcast deal continued recent carriage agreements that highlight the "great value" that distributors put "on our content and brands," Zaslav said. He said the deal included "meaningful increases" in carriage fees and enhances the company's TV Everywhere strategy.

Zaslav said the Comcast agreement will ensure a "steady growth rate for years to come" in the U.S., which has seen a "relatively flat and challenged" pay TV market. He added that Discovery had more upside from here, saying the firm's deals still make the U.S. "a growth market."

The Comcast and other carriage deals "stabilize and accelerate our U.S. affiliate growth trajectory to high single digits in 2016" and “significantly enhance our domestic affiliate revenue and cash flow growth expectations,” CFO Andy Warrren said.

The Olympics deal in Europe, meanwhile, was a "perfect editorial and strategic fit," Zaslav said. He said Eurosport's programming schedule is already 40 percent dedicated to Olympic sports.

The CEO also touted Discovery's recent deal to buy full control of pan-European sports network Eurosport. It will allow the company to "fully realize [its] growth potential," he said.

Zaslav on Wednesday also touted ratings momentum at Discovery Channel, led by Rich Ross, and new TLC shows, such as My Giant Life and transgender reality show All That Jazz.

Warren updated analyst on the foreign-exchange effects on 2015 financials. He said revenue will see a $440 million hit, or 7 percent, for the full year, with adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization forecast to see a $160 million, or 6 percent, hit. Earnings per share will take a 23 cents-28 cents hit in 2015 due to currency trends.

Twitter: @georgszalai