Discovery Communications Earnings Call Nuggets: Free-to-Air Networks and Future Guidance

On Tuesday, Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Free-to-Air Networks

John Janedis – UBS: It’s John Janedis. David, the free-to-air networks have been a great driver in Europe. Is there any way you can help us size the growth for you versus maybe the growth in the markets where you operate them and what inning do you think we’re in on the growth curve there?

David M. Zaslav – President and CEO: The free-to-air has really helped us in a slow market in Western Europe, no doubt and it’s because our model is quite good, we own all the content in those markets and in particular those markets have small pay-TV, so we’re able to take content that only a small amount of the population has seen and we’ll pick up a stick where a broadcast network at a very low price and then we can put content that cost us very little. For instance, in Spain, we have very little original content, it’s almost all library and we’ve seen a lot of growth with Discovery Max in Spain and it’s continuing to accelerate, Real Time in Italy is continuing to grow. It’s now the number seven network in all of Italy. We also launched a men’s network in Italy and our German free-to-air. It’s a small piece of our overall strategy, but it’s been very healthy for us because our costs are very low and we have teams on the ground, they’re already selling across multiple channels and so it’s given us some heft and it’s given us some more scale in those markets. It really only works in markets where the pay-TV market is quite small, but we are continuing to see growth and I think that will help us over the next year or two in Western Europe and when the market actually starts to pick up you’ll see an acceleration because of the number of channels that we have in that market.

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John Janedis – UBS: Then maybe a separate question, you talked about increasing the number of hours in some of the emerging nets, are we at a point now where there’s more room to add hours there and has there may be much of a change in your cost per hour, given the success of the programming?

David M. Zaslav – President and CEO: One of the things that we do is first we have a different strategy than a number of other media companies, we’re real believers that you could still build channels and with good stories and good creative people and great characters, you can attract real audiences to these new channels. We’ve had real success by investing in Animal Planet, in Science, ID, which is now know the number six network in America for women and so we are investing in about 7 channels but we have 13 and so what we’re trying to do is in the channels that we haven’t figured out yet exactly how to grow, we’re reducing our spend and on the channels that we think we have the right recipe we’re increasing it. One of the advantages we have with the channels that we’ve been leaning into which is ID and Animal Planet and Science is that all three of them play very well around the world. We have Science now in over 150 countries. We’ve launched ID in the last year to over 130 countries and we’ve Animal Planet in almost 200 and so when we invest we view it as a worldwide investment because we could take it all over the world, but we are very careful and in some of the channels that aren’t generating significant value where we don’t feel like we have the right brand or the right recipe we’re holding back.

Guidance

David Bank – RBC Capital Markets: First question is on your guidance or your discussion of ad trends in the fourth quarter, you kind of called out mid-single digits X one time or high-single digits X of one timer in the fourth quarter. Could you just remind what us of what order of magnitude and what it was? The second question is it’s tough to get specific about one network but I’m going to try and take another pass like, can you give us a sense of what percent of the growth of the overall business over the last couple of years that ID has driven and what is the likelihood that once that starts to slow down you see Destination America and you see Velocity basically that you see catching lightning in a bottle and not worrying about anniversarying the lightning in a bottle of ID?

David M. Zaslav – President and CEO: Thanks, David. I’ll take the second question and then Andy. On ID I think we really have a very strong horse here that’s going to deliver sustainable growth for a long period of time, even if the ratings don’t grow and they grew 30% in the last quarter and we expect they will grow aggressively because we have a strong niche and we’ve seen growth in every week and every month for the past four years. But the reason is that the CPM that we’re able to get for that for ID is still quite low and because of the way the marketplace works domestically and internationally, it takes a few years before you can earn up the full value of your CPM. So, we started ID when we flipped it from Discovery Times, it was probably getting a third of the CPM that a successful cable network gets and so little by little we’ve been pushing it and we’ve had some success but a lot of the upside over the next 2 to 3 years, right now, for the kind of ratings that we’re delivering in daytime in women is just very valuable and the spread between what other cable networks are getting and what we’re getting is really very, very significant and so that’ll take a couple of years. We also think, we’ll get the growth of that and in terms of the amount of growth that it’s provided for us in the last few years, it’s small. In fact, there’s been margin compression over the last few years because we’ve been investing in ID and so the next two, three and four years is when you’re going to see the big benefit of that, because we have successful series that are returning, but more importantly the CPM is growing. It continues to grow every month and we’re going to be patient with it, but that’s going to be a sustainable grower for us. Combine that, we do have a number of networks that are continuing to grow. We have the Science Channel that’s growing very effectively for us; Animal Planet was the number 30 or 32 network in America for men. It’s broken now. Now the number 18 network for men in September and so we’re seeing a lot of growth because we’re believers in investing in our content and the creative teams that we have here that the Company and if you take a look at where we are, we’ve said that we’re trying over the last several years – we’re going to drive Discovery. We thought we were the best platform media Company in the world, but what we really needed to do was build the right creative culture. We think we’re well on our way to doing that and our strategy was to lay low in the Olympics and then come out strong with our creative content and build from there. We were strong out of the Olympics. We had a great September and October was the best October Discovery has ever had. We were up 17% across-the-board in an industry – cable industry that was down a few percentage points and broadcast down and so I think we’re going to continue to push on that, but if we can continue to grow our market share like that over the next several months and year or two ahead, you’re going to see very big sustainable growth, particularly as we take a lot of that content around the world. So Andy on the…

Andrew Warren – SEVP and CFO: Yeah. David regarding your question of the one-time item a year ago in the fourth quarter we announced due to a disclose that we had about $5 million one-time pickup from AD recognition in the fourth quarter that’s non-recurring in the fourth quarter this year.

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