Discovery CEO: Cable TV Skinny Bundles Really Just “Overstuffed Turkeys”

Image courtesy of Al Ibrahim

A few years ago, the pay-TV industry started trying to placate customers fed up with paying for channels they don’t watch by introducing so-called “skinny bundles” — fewer channels for less money. But the CEO of one cable TV colossus says these TV packages are still too bloated.

Most skinny bundle offerings currently come from the growing number of live-TV streaming services, like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, and Hulu Live. While these platforms may be more mobile-friendly and not require contracts or expensive boxes, their programming packages are still largely like traditional cable, with many subscribers paying for channels they don’t want and don’t watch.

On a quarterly earnings call with analysts this week, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav called the idea of skinny bundles in the U.S. “a fiction,” as they’re filled with sports and can cost anywhere up to $60 or $70, including the price of broadband.

“So it’s really not a skinny bundle,” he said. “It’s a bundle. It’s a bundle that may be attractive to a small group of people.”

Zaslav noted places like Europe and Latin America where content packages costing closer to $8 or $12 per month have been “very successful.”

“I see the skinny bundle in 200 countries,” he said. “When I look here in the U.S. and I read ‘skinny bundle’, there is no skinny bundle here.”

He says that while Discovery is on many platforms now, ultimately, there should be a bundle that costs between $8 and $12.

“I think these overstuffed turkeys are going to end up being a challenge from a consumer perspective, and the consumer’s going to say, ‘I’d like to have an opportunity here,'” he said, noting that Netflix and Amazon have been effective in that area so far.

“But we as an industry need to complement that with a quality offering… that’s a true skinny bundle in the spirit of what’s working around the world, and I think that’ll happen,” he said. “It’s just a question of when.”

While sports programming — particularly ESPN — is believed to be the most expensive non-premium content to carry, Zaslav’s company must share some responsibility for the glut of niche cable channels filling your programming guide.

Discovery channels account for eight of the approximately 40 non-broadcast channels in PS Vue’s required “Access” tier. The lower-cost tiers of DirecTV Now are also peppered with multiple offerings from Discovery that you can’t opt out of accepting.


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