He ran Animal Planet and HGTV. Now he will oversee WarnerMedia. Who is David Zaslav?

David Zaslav was at a crossroads in 2007.

After spending 18 years at NBC, the place he helped develop a cable portfolio that included CNBC and MSNBC, Zaslav had a proposal to run Discovery Networks, the house of documentaries, nature reveals and Shark Week.

The corporate’s packages had as soon as been a favourite of cable system operators, who pointed to them each time they wanted to assuage faculty boards and native authorities officers indignant over racy music movies on MTV and R-rated movies on HBO. However that picture was much less significant because the cable enterprise matured.

“It was not the shiniest object on the block on the time,” recalled Tom Rogers, Zaslav’s good friend and former boss at NBC.

However, Rogers urged him to take the job at Discovery’s earlier house base in Silver Spring, Md., not precisely a present enterprise hub.

“I mentioned, ‘David, completely. You’ll have a platform you could develop,’” Rogers mentioned.

What Rogers knew and others have discovered since is that Zaslav, 61, prides himself on being a relentless change agent.

He reworked Discovery from a distinct segment TV service to the biggest purveyor of nonfiction programming, creating new channels and franchises, increasing its attain internationally and seamlessly absorbing different in style cable TV manufacturers such because the Meals Community and HGTV when it acquired Scripps Networks in 2018 in a $12-billion deal.

The corporate’s worth grew from $5 billion to just about $22 billion over that point.

Zaslav’s success made him one of many highest paid chief executives of a publicly traded U.S. firm (in 2018, he earned a staggering $129.4 million because of the Scripps deal).

However he nonetheless has the drive and need to navigate the treacherous terrain of the leisure trade’s future as overseer of a newly merged entity that will put Discovery Networks and WarnerMedia and property akin to HBO, Warner Bros. Studios, CNN, TLC — the house of “90 Day Fiancé” — and HGTV’s “Fixer Higher” beneath one roof. The property could be folded into a brand new publicly commerce firm owned by AT&T and Discovery.

The businesses formally introduced the $43-billion merger, which is topic to regulatory approval, on Monday.

“I’m so excited, however that is actually surreal, and simply getting it over the end line,” Zaslav advised The Occasions. “It’s such a historic firm and an incredible set of property, and it suits so effectively with what we’ve constructed over the past 15 years that I’ve been at Discovery.”

Zaslav is understood for being energetic and protracted. He doesn’t quit simply.

A yr after he took the job at Discovery, Zaslav took discover of how his spouse, Pam, was absorbed within the uplifting tales she learn in O Journal, the publication based by Oprah Winfrey.

Zaslav determined that his sleepy media firm wanted somebody of Winfrey’s stature to spice up its profile.

So Zaslav doggedly pursued Winfrey, touring to her Chicago headquarters. He did one thing exceptional on the time: In 2008, he provided Winfrey 50% possession of one among Discovery’s small channels, and so they ultimately rebranded it OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

The community floundered in its early years, however Zaslav caught with OWN till it discovered its manner as some of the in style cable channels for ladies ages 25 to 54.

Zaslav’s persistence with Winfrey got here from a deep perception in respecting expertise. He believes that WarnerMedia shares that worth.

“It is a enterprise constructed on relationships,” Zaslav mentioned. “And I’m sufficiently old to keep in mind that after I began out, if you happen to might spend time with anybody within the enterprise, you’d need to spend time with [Time Warner founder] Steve Ross. He was the man who gave folks the liberty to inform the tales they needed to inform. He created lots of worth for Warner Bros. He actually set the usual for a way these companies must be run.”

However those that work for Zaslav should be correctly caffeinated always. He begins his day in New York earlier than 5 a.m. Japanese, and he may have a convention name on a Sunday if he believes it’s vital.

He introduced that type of urgency to the event and January launch of Discovery’s streaming service, Discovery+, which was seen as important to setting the corporate up for the longer term and key to creating it a horny merger accomplice.

Zaslav comes from humble roots in Brooklyn and the New York Metropolis suburbs. He graduated from Binghamton College, a state faculty in New York state, after which obtained his regulation diploma at Boston College.

He’s identified to be a loyal household man with three grown youngsters, together with daughter Ali Zaslav, who works as a reporter at CNN, which is able to change into a part of the merged firm.

Final yr, David Zaslav acquired the three,900-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion that was house to the late film mogul Robert Evans (“The Godfather,” “Chinatown”), telling buddies he needed to spend extra time in Los Angeles.

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who has been buddies with Zaslav for years, welcomes his arrival.

“It is a good function for David, as he has that uncommon potential to deftly mix the science of a worldwide conglomerate with the alchemy of the inventive arts,” Spielberg mentioned. “I’m sure he’ll foster an surroundings for his storytellers to take some very huge swings, and whereas Amblin’s house is — and can all the time be — at Common and Comcast, I stay up for being a type of storytellers in my movie and tv collaborations together with his groups sooner or later.”

Whereas Zaslav has wealth and fancy movie star buddies — his annual summer season bash within the Hamptons is a coveted invite amongst New York’s media set — his important wardrobe piece is a sleeveless Patagonia vest, often seen with the logos of one among his networks on it.

Rogers says it seemingly developed from Zaslav’s days having to woo cable operator to hold NBC’s channels. “He would put the community on something,” Rogers mentioned. “He actually favored tchotchkes.”

When the identify of the newly merged Uncover-WarnerMedia entity is introduced subsequent week, anticipate it to point out up on Zaslav’s vest.

“There was a time after I used to put on Patagonia garments, however that was earlier than I met David and surrendered because it grew to become clear I had neither the amount nor selection to out-vest him,” Spielberg.

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