THB #199: Warner Bros Discovery Q2 2022
This was going to be the investor’s call of investor’s calls. Chapek laying out Disney+. Hastings blurting out his support of ads on Netflix. And now, it was hypothesized, David Zaslav was finally going to spill the beans on every plan he and his team had in mind of Warner Bros Discovery.
The shrieking across Twitter all day on Wednesday after word landed that the made-for-HBO Max Batgirl movie was going to be disappeared from the face of the media earth, the The Day The Clown Cried of this generation. HBO Max was being replaced by Discovery’s all-reality-television all the time. Every series on HBO Max was being cancelled and the negatives (ha ha) were being burned. And if to make the point even more painful, Scoob: Holiday Haunt was also being censored. What does Zaslav have against the 70s?!?!?
It turned out that the killing off of these two titles was connected to a quirky opportunity to make AT&T pay Warner Bros Discovery for some of the content that was bought under the last regime, to the tune of over $100 million. But first, that was pushed aside for rage amongst the deepest lovers of cinema, who were aching for a Batgirl movie that they never would have to or choose to watch. Then, the financial side was embraced a bit more, as the day went along… and that became double the sin against the future of cinema!!!
But wait!!! The quarterly investor call was coming the next day (today, Thursday August 4) and not only would Team Zaslav have their feet held to the fire about their hatred of film… of quality… or anything other than creep crap reality programming, they would answer all the questions that everyone has about the future of Warner Bros Discovery in aching detail, with absolute clarity.
That didn’t happen.
We got pretty much what we have had since this journey started. They have all these great assets and they will exploit them in the best way possible, using all the weapons in their arsenal.
Zaz believes in theatrical. Zaz believes in legacy television. Zaz believes different people watch different television delivery tools differently with different goals and desires. Zaz believes in Casey Bloys.
They are going to merge the content of HBO Max and Discovery. But not anytime soon. Next summer. Under a name that is neither HBO nor Discovery.
How much will it cost? Don’t know.
How will it be laid out? Don’t know.
What DO you know?
There be an ad-based version… but first, a lite-ad-load version. Then a completely free, all-ad version in the months after the relaunch next summer.
We are putting profitability ahead of the chase for maximum subscriber numbers. We’re only aiming for 130 million worldwide by 2024, which will be enough to make us profitable domestically. (Of course, we can speed it up… wink wink.)
We re-upped with AT&T to provide their Unlimited customers free HBO Max.
Did I mention that I love Casey Bloys? And that not only are we not killing HBO Max, we are continuing to increase the content budget!
Also… I like my tech guys better than the ones at HBO Max, so they will make the new offering tech magical.
Someone asked about Batgirl. Zaz didn’t address it directly. No real explanation. But he did indicate that stuff has to be of a certain standard. So that was kinda a backhand slap. (Also, the opposite of what many are claiming he believes.)
He did talk about developing a 10-year-plan for DC that, without mentioning Marvel, would be like Marvel.
There are a million questions that simply went unanswered (unasked, as well).
He almost said, "We are taking a gap year... we have a plan for our student loans to all get paid... so let us go sow our wild oats and stop bugging us."
Apparently, there will be a major presentation in November or December where they really will answer all the questions people have. But for now, hey man, it’s August… it’s hot… we just had to dump some titles to clear $100m+ from our books… get off our back. Don’t you know how to knock? I’m hungry!
Zaslav is an enthusiastic salesman. They have the assets to be better than anyone else in the world, full stop! We’re working every day to get it just right!
There were a few shots at Kilar… but not many. This was really a cheering session about what they are doing… even though nothing is locked down… but it will be… next year.
And next week, Disney will be the new distraction.
Honestly, there is a part of me that admires this approach. The idea of building a business with a constant concern about the buzz on Twitter is insane. These guys have the burden of debt… but they have that planned out to the point where they don’t have to really worry about how they are going to pay it down again until 2025. The executive ranks are mostly set, so people can get to work. There are bullets in the barrel, though I don’t think we have Zaslav’s first greenlight yet.
Normally - including this morning - I am chewing on the numbers of a quarterly.
It really isn’t the point today.
You can read the report here (pdf). Soft quarter. Some lost subs domestically. Yadda yadda yadda.
The vitriol yesterday was about as extreme as I have ever seen about a streaming company. I mean, wild stuff based on often badly reported facts… some just willful rage against someone that people have decided is an enemy.
And what we got was, kinda, “Not only are we fine… we are GREAT. So thanks for the input and we’ll let you know where we are on all this in a few months and we’ll flip the switch in 10-12 months. It’s been fun.”
No apologies. No excuses. Just a bunch of guys who are acting like they are really running a start-up based on some old assets, really not worried about how worried some people are about what they will do. Which will piss off those worried people all over again. Until they get distracted by some other butterfly they want to catch in their net right this second!
I spend a lot of time thinking about how other people do their jobs. I can be a real prick about it. But I never think that others have to somehow explain themselves to me so that I can understand their choices. I judge the choices they have made. Some would be well-served to know my opinion before they do what they are going to do. But that’s my ego, not their responsibility.
I can see where these guys are headed. May work. May not. There are a million ways for it to go great or go haywire. But I feel no urge to micromanage their process. It’s a streamer, not a war. There’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done… next summer.