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WARNER BROS CEO David Zaslav Wants FILM FRANCHISES Batman, Superman, Harry Potter And More!

by 11.07.2022

“You focus on the big movies, the tentpoles that people are going to leave home, leave early from dinner to see,” said Zaslav emphasizing how big pics make two or three times more in the U.S. Then slamming direct-to-streaming movies, a plan executed under the former WarnerMedia regime, Zaslav said: “We learned what doesn’t work. And this is what doesn’t work for us based on everything that we’ve seen: direct-to-streaming movies. So spending a billion dollars or collapsing a motion picture window into a streaming service. The movies that we launch in theater do significantly better, and launching a 2-hour, 40-minute movie direct to streaming has done nothing for HBO Max in terms of viewership, retention or love of the service.”



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WARNER BROS CEO David Zaslav Wants FILM FRANCHISES Batman, Superman, Harry Potter And More!

David Zaslav: (except from transcription)

A few quick examples. One is related to the product user experience. Previously, when a series concluded on HBO Max, there was no end card that would then recommend additional programs for the user to enjoy, an obvious way to drive greater consumer engagement. We’ve started rolling this out and are already seeing very promising engagement uplift.

A second example around content, we’ve begun experimenting with bringing D+ content onto HBO Max. Starting with select Magnolia Network shows such as Fixer Upper: The Castle, which was a top five show after only its first few days on the service. These early green shoots bolster our strategic thesis that the two content offerings work well together and when combined, should drive greater engagement, lower churn and higher customer lifetime value.

And lastly on churn, we’ve implemented a number of initiatives to improve customer retention and these have helped drive our voluntary churn rates to record lows in the last few weeks. We’ve still got a long way to go, but these early signs are certainly encouraging. As we said, we plan to roll out the new service here in the U.S., followed by Latin America in 2023, then in Europe and APAC thereafter. We see significant opportunity across the globe and we’re excited to resume expanding our distribution in countries where we are currently not represented. As you would expect, we made the strategic decision to hold off on active expansion until our new offering is set to launch.

Before I turn it over to Gunnar, I was recently asked if I thought the golden age of content was over and I said absolutely not. There’s nothing more important than content. People are consuming more content than they ever have, but it has to be great content. It’s no longer about how much, it’s about how good. And ultimately, it is the consumer who tells us what is good. And the consumer is telling us right now with House of the Dragon, Euphoria, Batman, Harry Potter, Friends, Big Bang Theory. You take a look at the portfolio of tentpole assets across Warner Bros. Discovery. And the breadth is large and the opportunity is real.

No one has a better or more recognizable hand of content, IP, brands, franchises and personalities than we do. That said, I believe the grand experiment, facing subs at any cost is over. Let’s face it, the strategy to collapse all windows, starve linear and theatrical and spend money with abandon, while making a fraction in return on the service of growing sub numbers, has ultimately proven in our view, to be deeply flawed. We believe there was a real opportunity to do things differently, to deliver the content consumers want and will pay for, while getting the full value of our offering.

As we said last quarter, our focus is on delivering $1 billion of EBITDA in streaming by 2025. And we expect to make significant progress toward this goal next year. Profitability, not purely sub count is our benchmark for success. While we’ve got lots more work to do, and some difficult decisions still ahead, we have total conviction in the opportunity before us. Warner Bros. Discovery, we’ve got the best assets in the industry, reach that extends from premium, basic pay-TV and free-to-air to theatrical streaming, consumer products and gaming, exceptionally talented people across this great company, and the right strategy and financial framework to set us up for long-term success.

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