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Discovery says OWN will become a significant asset

Discovery says that it is committed to building a bigger audience for OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network and that it has the potential to become a significant asset despite its various difficulties since launching in January 2011.

In the wake of its full-year results, Discovery CEO David Zaslav was quizzed by financial analysts, one of whom asked whether Discovery could terminate the OWN joint venture and move the network online and then use that space for another, more successful channel.

“We’ve done deals with most of the distributors for meaningful subscriber fees, and on the advertiser side, we have good advertising support,” Zaslav responded. “The mission is to grow an audience. If we grow a meaningful audience that wants to spend time with OWN — and we think that we will — this will be a very significant asset. It takes time to do that.”

The channel, which is a joint venture between Discovery and Winfrey’s Harpo, is now in 80 million US homes and Oprah herself is spending more time on screen after ending her network talk show last year. The network has been overhauled already as it struggled to find ratings and Christina Norman was replaced by Peter Ligouri as CEO before he was replaced by Oprah, who became CEO and chief creative officer.

“We have a good team, a team that she has confidence in and I have confidence in now,” Zaslav said.
He was speaking after Discovery reported double digit profit and revenue increases for the year to end-December. International networks were a key growth driver, and revenues increased 16% year on year, taking the total to US$1.45 billion. Profit was up 18% and totaled US$645 million. Affiliate fees accounted for US$890 million of the international revenues, a 14% year on year increase, and advertising US$514 million, a 22% uptick.

Overall company revenues increased 12% in 2011 and came in at US$4.23 billion. Profit of 1.9 billion was up 13% year on year.