I’ve predicted in the past that Discovery Communications will ultimately re-locate away from Silver Spring, and the announcement yesterday that Discovery Health will be replaced by an all-Oprah network (“OWN”) only reinforces my belief.
“In addition to providing her talent, and personal commitment, Winfrey will have full editorial control over the joint venture and will be responsible for OWN’s programming, branding and creative vision,” a press release stated.Unless Barack Obama is elected our next president and Oprah becomes Secretary of State, I don’t see her moving to the D.C. area anytime soon, so I would imagine that she and her presumably hand-picked staff will be based out of an office elsewhere. There is certainly a precedent for this at Discovery, with TLC having moved its entire staff to Los Angeles last year. The head of Animal Planet, Discovery’s third most widely distributed network after Discovery Channel and TLC, is already based out of New York and there have been layoffs in the Silver Spring office for positions that we re-filled in NYC. Another of their bigger networks, Travel Channel, was sold to Cox Communications as part of a large ownership transaction to prepare for Discovery’s eventual public offering.
Discovery CEO David Zaslav is based out of New York and has no local roots, unlike previous CEO Judith McHale. I don’t think he’d mind if the company upped and joined him. Of course, this is all purely speculation on my part and I hope I’m way off base. It would be a shame if Discovery were to leave Silver Spring, as it is a primary sponsor of basically every event that takes place downtown. Also, having such a well-known company based downtown certainly lends cache to the area. Doug Duncan and others envisioned Silver Spring as a “Burbank on the Potomac” (yes, Silver Spring is not on the Potomac…) with a collection of media firms and the smaller companies that support them. Let’s hope Mr. Zaslav doesn’t have other plans.