David Zaslav’s Unorthodox Approach To Streaming Inspires Rivals To Follow Suit


David Zaslav
David Zaslav | Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

David Zaslav Challenged the Streaming Industry’s Orthodoxy. Now, Rivals Are Following His Lead.

When David Zaslav took over as the CEO of Discovery in 2007, the company was struggling to stay afloat in a rapidly changing media landscape. But instead of sticking to the old playbook, Zaslav took a bold new approach, doubling down on unscripted programming and reality TV. That gamble paid off, and now Discovery is one of the most successful media companies in the world.

Now, Zaslav is challenging the streaming industry’s orthodoxy in a similar way. His new venture, a merger with WarnerMedia, promises to create a media giant that can compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney+. And rivals are taking notice.

One of the most notable examples is ViacomCBS, which recently announced plans to rebrand its streaming service, CBS All Access, as Paramount+. Like Discovery, ViacomCBS is banking on a strategy that focuses on unscripted programming and reality TV, in addition to blockbuster movies and exclusive content.

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Another major player in the industry, NBCUniversal, is also taking cues from Zaslav. The company has announced plans to launch its own streaming service, Peacock, which will feature a mix of original programming, live sports, and classic TV shows. While Peacock will also offer scripted content, the emphasis is on unscripted programming and reality TV, echoing the strategy of Discovery and ViacomCBS.

Zaslav’s approach to the streaming industry has been to focus on what he calls “superfans,” or viewers who are passionate about a particular genre or franchise. For example, Discovery’s Food Network has a devoted following among foodies, while TLC has found success with shows like 90 Day Fiancé that appeal to fans of reality TV.

The success of these shows has inspired Zaslav to pursue a similar strategy with the new WarnerMedia-Discovery merger. The company plans to launch a new streaming service that will feature a mix of exclusive content, blockbuster movies, and unscripted programming. While the emphasis will be on unscripted programming, the service will also feature scripted shows from WarnerMedia’s extensive library.

With the streaming industry becoming increasingly crowded, Zaslav’s approach may be just what is needed to stand out from the competition. As more and more rivals follow in his footsteps, it’s clear that Zaslav’s impact on the industry will be felt for years to come.

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