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Why David Zaslav Thinks Delayed Tokyo Olympics Will Be Even ‘Better’ for Discovery

Silver lining on no bronze, silver and gold medals this summer

Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav said on Wednesday that a 2021 Tokyo Olympics actually serves his company better than this summer would have.

“We think it’s going to probably be a little bit better for us,” Zaslav said Wednesday on a conference call following the release of Discovery’s second-quarter 2020 earnings. “One of the issues with the Olympics is [Games are usually] separated by such a long period of time. In terms of building our digital direct-to-consumer platform, the fact that we’ll have Summer (Games) and then Winter (Games) only a few months apart, the fact that we can get advertisers in to both of them together, where we can string it together.”

“We also have a little more time to prepare the ad market,” Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels added.

“I think when sports does come back it’s going to come back very big. People are really yearning for it,” Zaslav said. “We need sports.”

Discovery has a major international presence — especially in Europe — for sports programming, including the Olympics. Across the pond, Discovery’s Eurosport network and Eurosport app carry the Games. Its DPlay OTT service offers another option overseas.

During the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, which was Discovery’s first Olympics under a deal with the International Olympic Committee, Eurosport and DPlay added nearly 500,000 subscribers combined.

On March 30, Olympics organizers announced new dates for the Games to begin July 23, 2021 — almost one year after the event was scheduled to take place. Like so much in sports and television, the coronavirus pandemic upended the original plans.

Weeks later, Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, said the Summer Games would be canceled instead of pushed to 2022 if the virus remained a threat. The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place Feb. 4-20 in Beijing, China.

Read all about Discovery’s Q1 2020 earnings here.