Discovery CEO heralds shift to ‘opportunistic’ sports-rights approach

David Zaslav, president and chief executive of Discovery, has said that the US media company is keen on adding to its sports portfolio, and that it is “opportunistic” in using sport as a means to drive engagement.

“We are opportunistic in terms of looking at sport as a passionate brand where we can super serve people’s interest across the board, but … there’s a lot of stuff that we look at that we don’t think fits our metric of being able to provide long-term growth,” Zaslav said in a conference call on Tuesday to discuss Discovery’s financials.

Discovery signed a landmark deal last year with golf’s PGA Tour to create a new $2bn global over-the-top service known as GOLFTV. The company has also signed an agreement with Tiger Woods to create ancillary content for GOLFTV.

It also significantly increased its stake last month in digital sports media company Play Sports Group in a move that furthers its plans to create the world’s leading cycling media ecosystem.

Zaslav added: “In most of those cases, we bought sports assets that have a very long tail. In the case of the PGA, it’s through the end of 2030. In the case of the Olympics, we did it for a decade. In the case of cycling, we own the business.

“We don’t like doing business with these three-year type soccer deals, which we’re getting out of, and so I think we’re going to be opportunistic. We’re in the sports business. We may even be the leader in sports around the world when you aggregate all of our IP.”

Discovery’s golf and cycling platforms will provide the company with a better idea of how it can work with other sports organisations going forward, according to Zaslav.

“There’s a lot of sports where the federations are going to want to try and reach [around] the globe, but they’re not going to have the scale to build a platform. Our platform is built. They’re not going to have the scale to market in every country.

“We have multiple channels in every country and we have an online digital business in every country. We think once we build and we can prove out these ecosystems that we could be a platform that people come to where instead of paying for those rights, that we can represent those rights and get a split.”

Most recent

Match-choice restrictions placed by Spain’s LaLiga on the free-to-air package in its UK and Ireland rights tenders for the 2019-22 cycle may limit interest from broadcasters, according to industry experts spoken to by SportBusiness Media.

Pay-television broadcaster BT Sport took advantage of Sky’s long-running concerns over wrestling body WWE’s OTT service to grab WWE rights in the UK and Ireland from its rival at a steep discount, SportBusiness Media understands.

As TikTok has grown into one of the world's most popular social-media apps during the past year, the short-form video-sharing platform has become an important tool for sports rights-holders to expand and engage their fanbases. 

Turkish agency Saran has negotiated a price reduction for rights to the English Premier League for the 2019-22 cycle, SportBusiness Media understands, the first time it has achieved this since acquiring the property at the turn of the decade.