Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Discovery CEO talks about Oprah, her show, and OWN

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Now that Oprah Winfrey has set a date for when the sun will set on her syndicated talk show — Sept 2011 — everybody wants to know if she will recreate the show on OWN. OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, is the cable channel set to flicker on in some 80 million homes in January 2011 with Discovery Communications.

At the Reuters Media Summit in New York, Reuters Paul Thomasch put the question directly to David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery Communications:


REUTERS:
Do you expected Oprah will dedicate a lot of time to the OWN network?
DISCOVERY: When we announced OWN, Oprah talked about it as being ‘her’ media company. Its a 50-50 venture. We think it’s going to be very significant asset. But Oprah is the chairman, she’s the chief creative officer. Shes spends a lot of time on it with me and the staff, she’s involved in all the creative decisions she has a ton of energy and great creativity. We always expected that she was going to be spending a lot of time in front of the screen and behind the screen.  Its a big win for us and the cable industry that (she) will be available primarily on OWN. OWN will really feel the strength and creativity of her presence.

REUTERS: Have you talked to her about bringing her current show, or something resembling her show, to OWN?
DISCOVERY: We have talked about a lot of creative ways that Oprah can have a presence on OWN (such as Master Class). Oprah has a ton of great ideas. But ultimately, what Oprah does on OWN is Oprah’s decision.

ESPN: We all live in sports towns (And tell great jokes)

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ESPN President George Bodenheimer has been at the business of TV sports, one way or another, for nearly three decades, starting in the mailroom and working his way up.

It’s the classic media story — and this one even involved a stint driving through nearly every little town in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi to sell this odd new 24-hour sports network to cable distributors.

200MB? It’s only human nature to want more

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Broadband subscribers want as much speed as they can get their hands on, even if it’s way beyond what’s needed by the most avid downloader of music, keen watcher of video or biggest Facebook addict, reckons cable operator Liberty Global’s CEO.

Maybe he would say that, but Mike Fries says today’s subscribers are signing up for speeds of 100-200 MB to be safe in the knowledge they won’t be left behind whatever the next stage of the Internet — a bit like owning a car with a top speed way beyond the limit.

Time Warner Cable and the Audacity of Hope

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It’s not every day that you have a top executive in big business talk about how nice it will be to see the back of the Bush administration. Republican presidencies typically tout their adherence to free markets, unbridled capitalism and, most importantly, a smaller pile of what corporations often consider burdensome regulations. That isn’t what they usually expect from Democratic administrations, even ones led by Barack Obama.

That’s why we thought it so interesting that Time Warner Cable’s chief financial officer, Rob Marcus, is happy for some turnover at the Federal Communications Commission. It is the FCC, after all, that has to approve some key licenses for Time Warner Cable’s split from its majority owner, Time Warner Inc. For some reason, the FCC can’t seem to find room on its schedule to do that, and that seems to have irked Marcus. It is, after all, preventing the two companies from separating by the time Time Warner Cable said it would.

Liberty Global goes to school on digital video

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fries.jpgLearning from others’ mistakes always makes business easier. At least that’s what Liberty Global is counting on as looks at digital video coming to television around the world. Chief Executive Mike Fries tell us a few of the lessons he took away from the roll-out of digital video and products like DVRs in the United States. “Be patient with your box development.” “You want to have everybody on the same platform.” “Be disciplined about the economic model… don’t spend too much on the box.” “It’s about the applications, not the content.”

All about the applications? Fries elaborates:

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