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Warner Bros. Discovery unveils new post-merger entertainment strategy

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery

Warner Bros. Discovery unveils new post-merger entertainment strategy


The Future. CEO David Zaslav is making his mark on the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery, announcing sweeping changes to its streaming platforms, film-release strategy, and investment in HBO shows. Considering how it undoes many of the hallmarks of its previous leadership, all eyes may be on Warner Bros. Discovery to see if the “less is more” approach is a better strategy in the streaming age.

Only the hits
Here are some of the major changes announced at Warner Bros. Discovery’s first post-merger earnings call yesterday:

  • HBO Max and Discovery+ will combine into one service next summer — both services have a combined subscriber count of 92.1 million — and will roll out a free AVOD service soon after.
  • Scripted content at HBO and HBO Max, under the direction of executive Casey Bloys, will get “dramatically” more investment.
  • When it comes to movies, Warner Bros. will go back to a theatrical-first model (with a focus on franchises), with Zaslav saying that he doesn’t see any economic benefit in debuting big-budget films directly to streaming.
  • DC Films has a ten-year plan in place to try to capture the success of Marvel. The company has even hired former Disney film head Alan Horn to help shepherd the strategy.

Things that didn’t make the cut: kids shows, local-language content, and any scripted show on any of Warner’s broadcast networks.

Streaming black hole
While it’s perfectly normal for an incoming CEO to make a few changes when they take the reins, the creative community is holding their breath after Zaslav and Co. made some unprecedented moves.

  • It canned basically-completed films bound exclusively for HBO Max, such as Batgirl and Scoob!: Holiday Haunt.
  • It removed several movies (An American PickleLocked Down) and shows (VinylMrs. Fletcher) from HBO Max.

The company noted that it made those decisions to take advantage of a post-merger tax write-down… but that doesn’t appease any creative in Hollywood. Instead, it shows that, in the streaming age,  just because a movie or show is made, it may never be released. Also, if it is released, it can just be deleted.

There has never been a stronger argument for the importance of film preservation.

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