During the weeks leading up to this year’s Realscreen Summit in Washington, DC, look for profiles on www.realscreen.com of some of the top speakers appearing this year. Today, we take a closer look at Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zaslav.
The President and CEO of Discovery Communications has the daunting task of overseeing a company that has over 100 TV networks and reaches more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 170 countries. It’s all in a day’s work for David Zaslav, who has experience in juggling various roles from his past as an attorney and adjunct professor at Fordham University. Zaslav also presently sits on the boards of TiVo, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, The Cable Center, and the Center for Communication.
Zaslav’s cable experience is vast. He was onboard with NBC Universal from the beginning of its burgeoning cable initiatives – he joined then-NBC Universal boss Bob Wright in 1986 to help create CNBC, the first offshoot of NBC – until he became the president of cable and domestic TV and new media distribution. By 2007, before he left NBC Universal to join Discovery, he was responsible for Bravo, CNBC World, SCI FI, Sleuth, Telemundo, and USA Network, among many others. Zaslav also oversaw NBC Universal’s interests in A&E, The History Channel, The Biography Channel, National Geographic International, the Sundance Channel and TiVo.
As a corporate lawyer at New York law firm LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby & MacRae in 1985, he was introduced to Discovery when the general counsel from Warner Cable came in as a partner and he represented the Discovery Channel. Judith McHale, the president and CEO of Discovery prior to Zaslav, was the general counsel of the then-struggling cable company and was about to go on a six-month maternity leave. Zaslav’s firm lent him to John Hendricks, founder and chairman of Discovery, to fill in for Judith.
Six months later he was back at the firm, with a newfound passion for cable and building businesses. Coming full circle, Zaslav has managed to grow Discovery Communications with new brands (OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network and Planet Green among them), expanded digital platforms by acquiring sites like HowStuffWorks.com, and brought more viewers to the networks.
Zaslav’s keynote address on February 3 at the Realscreen Summit will look at the way audiences are consuming media and how broadcasters and producers alike should change to adapt. He will also share his outlook for Discovery and the TV industry in general.
For more info on this year’s Realscreen Summit, taking place from Feb. 1-4, visit www.realscreensummit.com .