Discovery Communications

By Parker Davis
Discovery_Communications_Logo

Discovery Communications Logo- image courtesy of givingtuesday.org

Overview [1] [2]

TLC Logo- image courtesy of businessinsider.com

John Hendricks originally founded Discovery Communications under the name Appalachian Community Service Network in 1982. The first station launched was The Learning Channel, an educational station for youths and adults alike. When the company changed its name to Discovery Communications in 1985, other education based channels were established such as the Discovery Channel and the first 24/7 HD basic cable channel, Discovery HD, currently known as Velocity [1]. Today, Discovery Communications is the world’s #1 subscription based television network, reaching over 2 billion subscribers in 220 countries. They own over 200 television stations including: the Science Channel, Animal Planet, and OWN. Outside of television, Discovery Communications is also a large publisher of educational books and operates online media channels such as Revision3 and howstuffworks.com [2].

Executives [3]

John S. Hendricks- image courtesy of corporate.discovery.com

 

 

John S. Hendricks: Founder and Chairman Discovery Communications

 

 

David M. Zaslav- image courtesy of corporate.discovery.com

 

 

David M. Zaslav: President and CEO Discovery Communications

 

 

Jean Briac Perette- image courtesy of corporate.discovery.com

 

 

Jean Briac (JB) Perette: President Discovery Networks International

 

 

 

 

Financials [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

Discovery Communications is publicly traded under three stock series: DISCA, DISCB, and DISCK. Each ticker symbol translates to series A, B, and C stock. The newer issuances indicate a new corporate milestone, thus returning a higher company valuation number, resulting in a higher IPO for the new distribution of shares. DISCA contains the most shareholders. Within the previous three months, DISCA prices ranged from $76.80 to $85.97. Currently, it is recovering from its lowest point in the period, occurring April 15, 2014, and slowly increased 1.7% to $77.83 on April 18 [4].

Comparison of DISCA, DISCB, DISCK over a three month period- courtesy bloomberg.com

Comparison of DISCA, DISCB, DISCK- image courtesy of bloomberg.com

In the Annual Financial Statement for 2013, total revenue equated to $5.54 billion. A 19% increase over 2012, which generated $4.49 billion, a mere 8% increase over 2011 [5]. This growth is credited in their recent “acquisition of the majority stake in Eurosport International will drive international to contributing more than 50 percent of total company revenue” [6]. Discovery Communications possesses only 1% of total market share, competing alongside other media conglomerates such as: A&ENBCUniversal, and Viacom [7] [8].

Retirement and the Curiosity Project [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]

John S. Hendricks- image courtesy of curiosityretreats.com

Discovery founder and chairman, John Hendricks, officially announced his retirement in March. He will formally resign during the annual shareholder’s meeting on May 16; however, he has not released who will take his place as chairman. Although, sources speculate that current CEO, David Zaslav, may be a potential candidate for the position [9]. In his retirement letter to the board of directors, Hendricks explained that he will “spend the next few years traveling the planet and discovering the questions and mysteries that intrigue us all.” He will also use the opportunity to expand his new business, Curiosity Project LLC, announced February 10 of this year [10].

The mission of Curiosity Retreats is to create a unique forum where the lifelong curious can gather to explore in-depth the great questions of today. [11]

Curiosity Video Overview (Vimeo)

One currently operational aspect of the project is retreats for inspirational and open- minded thinkers alike. The retreats are five nights long at the Gateway Canyons resort in Colorado, including a panel of 8 different experts in the field of: science, technology, civilization, and human spirit [12]. The purpose of the retreat is to enlighten already intellectual minds and expand their imagination by collaborating and with others.

Gateway Canyons- image courtesy of multivu.com

The new aspect of Hendricks’ venture is video on demand. His plan is to compile recordings of the experts from the retreats and publish their talks online for an annual fee of $19.99. However, this venture may prove impractical because there are already free services similar to his found in university publications and intellectual websites, such as TED [13].

Hendricks founded Discovery in 1982 and stepped down as CEO in 2004 and began his role as chairman on the board of directors. He was with the company for 32 years [14].

Eurosport [15] [16] [17]

Eurosport Logo- image courtesy of 3.bp.blogspot.com

Discovery Communications is expanding its international affiliations by moving into the televised sports market. On January 21, Discovery purchased controlling share (51%) in Eurosport for $1.2 billion [15]. Since April 2013, Discovery owned 20% stake in the station. The extension was made in a monetary agreement with TF1, a French television network and previous majority owner of Eurosport. The purpose of Discovery’s equity increase is to compete with British Sky Broadcasting and BT, a UK cable provider, for exclusive Premier League television rights [16]. Discovery chose to expand its control over sporting networks so it can combine its international sports rights with its US based stations to avoid competing head on with domestic sporting networks. The new international acquisitions expand Discovery’s network portfolio, thus inflating revenue and control over the total media market [17].

DogTV [18] [19] [20]

DogTV Logo- image courtesy of dogtv.com

Discovery Communications has recently purchased an unspecified percentage of DogTV: a 2 year old network that targets the dog owner demographic and airs content specifically for pet entertainment. The station is distributed through DirecTV and has a subscription fee of $5 for television viewing and $10 for online streaming [17]. Current programming on the network includes 3-6 minute clips focused on a dog’s relaxation, stimulation, and exposure. Discovery Communications has developed a strategic partnership with DogTV, jointly creating similar programming for Animal Planet while spreading the reach of the network to other countries. This tactic by Discovery can be seen as a gamble to invest in television for dogs, however, over 43.3 million US households own at least one dog, collectively spending over $55.8 billion annually on pet products, and over half of which claim their dogs show interest in what occurs on television [18]. The channel is designed to relieve the stress and anxiety of stay at home pets [19].

DogTV in The News (YouTube)

New Form [21] [22] [23]

Left to Right: Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, David Zaslav- image courtesy variety.com

Discovery has co-founded and launched a new digital media site, New Form, alongside producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer [21]. The purpose of the studio is to infiltrate the scripted media market, whereas Discovery contains mainly non-fiction and reality based content. In the startup, the firm appointed Kathleen Grace, former Head of Creative Development for YouTube Space LA, as the Chief Creative Officer for New Form [22]. The videos created will be used in conjunction with current Discovery Digital Networks rather than creating a new site from the ground up. The venture was also announced the same week as Discovery’s upfront presentations to entice advertisers about the concept. Today, media advertisers divide their capital between television and online mediums, serving as a potentially dramatic advertisement revenue increase for Discovery.  Zaslav is making the push for Discovery to move into the Internet realm to make their channels easily accessible on all platforms for anyone to use [23].

Interview with David Zaslav and Ron Howard on New Form (Bloomberg)

Works Cited:

[1] Discovery Communications Founder John Hendricks to Retire as Chairman of Company’s Board. Discovery Communications. March 20, 2014. RT: April 13, 2014.

[2] Overview & Mission. Discovery Communications. RT: April 13, 2014.

[3] Leadership. Discovery Communications. RT: April 13, 2014.

[4] Google Finance Data. Google. RT: April 15, 2014.

[5] 2013 Annual Report. Discovery Communications. RT: April 15, 2014.

[6] Discovery CEO touts International Growth, Outlook. The Hollywood Reporter. Georg Szalai. April 3, 2014. RT: April 15, 2014.

[7] Introduction to the Entertainment & Media Industry. Plunkett Research, Ltd. RT: April 15, 2014. Used to calculate total market share.

[8] Top Competitors for Discovery Communications, Inc.. Hoovers. RT: April 15, 2014

[9] Discovery Communications Chairman John Hendricks stepping down. Los Angeles Times. Joe Flint. March, 20 2014. RT: April 17, 2014.

[10] John Hendricks Retirement Letter. John S. Hendricks. March 20, 2014. RT: April 17, 2014.

[11] Curiosity Mission Statement. Curiosity Retreats. RT: April 17, 2014.

[12] Curiosity About Page. Curiosity Retreats. RT: April 17, 2014.

[13] Discovery chairman John Hendricks to step down to pursue lifelong learning academy. Washington Post. Dan Beyers. March 23, 2014. RT: April 17, 2014.

[14] Cable Pioneer John Hendricks to Retire From Discovery Communications. Variety. Cynthia Littleton. March 20, 2014. RT: April 17, 2014.

[15] Discovery Takes Controlling Stake in Eurosport. New York Times. David Gelles. January 21, 2014. RT: April 17, 2014.

[16] Eurosport owner Discovery considering Premier League TV rights bid. The Guardian. Mark Sweney. January 24, 2014. RT: April 17, 2014

[17] Discovery to Take Control of Eurosport International. The Hollywood Reporter. Georg Szalai. January 21, 2014. RT: April 17, 2014

[18] Discovery Acquires Stake in DogTV, a Network Aimed at Canine Viewers. Variety. Todd Spangler. April 8, 2014. RT:April 18, 2014.

[19] Discovery Wants Your Dog To Watch More TV. Bloomberg Businessweek. Kyle Stock.  April 8, 2014. RT: April 18, 2014.

[20] Discovery Buys Stake In A TV Channel For Dogs. Huffington Post. Bill Bradley. April 11, 2014. RT: April 18, 2014.

[21] Discovery teams with Howard, Grazer for online shows. USA Today. Roger Yu. April 3, 2014. RT: April 18, 2014.

[22] Brian Grazer, Ron Howard Launch ‘New Form’ Digital Studio With Discovery. The Hollywood Reporter. Natalie Jarvey. April 2, 2014. RT: April 18, 2014.

[23] Howard, Grazer to team with Discovery on Web shows. New York Post. Claire Atkinson. April 2, 2014. RT: April 18, 2014.

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