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At UBS Media Conference: Discovery's CEO David Zaslav

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- David Zaslav bought some prime real estate for $250 million in October when he bought HowStuffWorks.com. "If you're on the first page of Google, that's Fifth Avenue," the CEO of Discovery Communications told investors in a panel at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference yesterday. "You're not targeting behavior, you're going with behavior."
David Zaslav
David Zaslav

Evaluating Discovery's position in the online space was one of several key areas Mr. Zaslav looked to revitalize after coming in to the CEO role at the beginning of 2007. He saw the enormous library of video content from Discovery's 15 TV networks as an opportunity to finally do something with video online, and HowStuffWorks, a more legitimate take on Wikipedia, was the perfect way to associate the two brands. A third brand is up next: yours.

"If someone's searching our site for hybrid cars, for example, they're almost at the point-of-purchase," he said. "We can take people anywhere, show them how to buy cars, then go to Ford and Toyota and say, 'One of you could have hybrid cars. What's that worth?'"

Other initiatives
The sponsor-like ad model will also be at the heart of Discovery's two other big initiatives for 2008. First is Investigation Discovery (or ID), a crime-focused rebrand of Discovery Times, followed by Planet Green, the 24-hour green-awareness network it will debut in 50 million homes next spring.

Mr. Zaslav said the key to selling both in next year's upfront will be to sell ads on a competitive level rather than a cost-per-thousand-viewers basis. "There's a lot of good advertisers who have green budgets, and we're clearly there, so we're saying, give us the money. And if you want crime, we own it. We're telling the advertising community we're serious about those networks. They like the idea of getting behind something."

Mr. Zaslav has also rebranded Discovery Channel and is in the process of finishing a new look for Science Channel to establish more unique identities for the flagship networks. "When I started here, people were telling me that advertisers were much more comfortable advertising on a channel that has a clear brand," he said.

E-commerce strategy
And for the investors, Mr. Zaslav was eager to trumpet the successful new e-commerce model he introduced to the company after pulling the 110 Discovery retail stores this spring. Last week, the company's first Cyber Monday operating under an online-only sales model grossed $2.4 million in sales, nearly double the $1.4 million Discovery sold last year when it had a full-scale retail presence.

"I wanted to start over. We had been losing a significant amount of money for the last 10 years. I looked at the stores and thought, how did those make us stronger?" he said.
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