Thursday, August 11 2022

Discovery CEO David Zaslav will move to Los Angeles to lead the new content giant that will be created by AT & T’s merger with WarnerMedia, which is expected to close by mid-2022, in the field, said Wednesday the ‘executive.

“I’m moving to California,” specifically LA, with a studio field office because “that’s where content is created, it’s a content company,” the man who will also be CEO of the combined company Warner Bros. Discovery told the Paley International Council Summit at the Paley Center in a webcast session. “I’ll be very practical.” And he added, “The better our content, the more likely we are to be the number one media company in the world. “

Zaslav said he would, however, return regularly to the east coast to visit other key operations, including CNN.

Will Zaslav look to hire a chief creative officer or other managers between his role as CEO at the merged company and executives at Warner Bros. and HBO? “We have ideas on” the structure, but he said he was not ready to present them yet.

The industry veteran also touched on scale and consolidation in the media and entertainment industry. “There will be substantial consolidation over the next five years,” Zaslav predicted. “I think we’re big enough now and have the artillery we need in this war of transition and disruption.”

Calling Netflix and Disney “great competitors,” he said, “we have a bigger library than Netflix”. Zaslav also presented the merged company as “the largest media company in the world”.

Asked about Netflix, he also said “they’ve seized” the moment in a meaningful way when media users want content anytime, anywhere. But Warner Bros. Discovery has advantages, Zaslav said, stressing: “We can open a movie anywhere in the world.”

“Other media companies are mostly content selectors, but Warner is“ a maker, ”Zaslav said.

Addressing the future of the big contracts with the creators, the head of Discovery suggested that “I don’t think these checks are going to continue,” Zaslav said, because beyond Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros. Discovery and Amazon, some companies may not be large enough. compete on the issue. And they might not be able to compete with the Warner Bros. Discovery merged in terms of quality. “Yes, money matters”, but the overall “environment”, including trust, brands, platforms and support for creatives, is critical in deciding where to settle as a creative, a- he argued.

When discussing cinema films, Zaslav also said that “I believe in cinema. He later also predicted that theaters would stay in business for a long time. “It’s about the community. … I don’t think that’s going to change.

Asked about the Dave Chappelle special controversy on Netflix, Zaslav said he saw the special, but “I’ll leave the details of that to [co-CEOs] Reed [Hastings] and Ted [Sarandos]. But he stressed that the company was goal-oriented and wanted people to feel safe, while enjoying artistic freedom, saying it would strive to find that ‘balance’.

“News is very important,” because people realize it, Zaslav said when asked why Discovery was an investor in the conservative news network GB News in Britain. When asked what he thought of Fox News, he replied, “He thinks it’s much more of an advocacy network than a news network.” He compared it to Discovery’s Food Network in that it tries to appeal to a specific type of consumer.

Last week, Zaslav revealed that former Disney chief executive and “old friend” Kevin Mayer will be consulting Discovery on the future of streaming as the planned merger, expected by mid-2022, draws closer. He declined to comment on other people’s futures at this point when asked about the plans of CNN boss Jeff Zucker, who is an old friend of his.

Of the entertainment industry veterans he has spoken with as he seeks to learn as much as possible about the films, history and future of the film industry, he mentioned Sherry Lansing, the Legends of Warner Bob Daly and Barry Meyer and the former CEO of Time Warner. Jeff Bewkes helped him with their insight, saying “it has been a great luxury”. He also spoke to creators such as Chuck Lorre, Greg Berlanti, Rob Reiner and Larry David, saying, “It’s a great pleasure for me. They are sort of my heroes. I love this business.

Discovery and AT&T are making good progress so far in the regulatory review process for the planned merger, seeing “broad support,” Zaslav said in early August. AT&T CFO Pascal Desroches also told an investor conference in September that he “couldn’t be happier” with the regulatory review process so far. We are really excited with the way this is going, ”he said, adding:“ There is no reason why this merger should not be approved.

In mid-May, Discovery unveiled the mega-merger with WarnerMedia, with Zaslav set to lead the combined company. AT&T shareholders will receive shares representing 71% of the new company, with Discovery shareholders owning the remaining 29%. The merged company is expected to generate $ 52 billion in revenue in 2023, and the companies are targeting $ 3 billion in cost synergies.

He and CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels also said last week that the combined company’s debt burden would be lower than initially expected, making the management team even more optimistic about their ability to reduce quickly the debt burden after the merger.

Streaming will be a priority for Warner Bros. Discovery combined, with Zaslav repeatedly saying he has the breadth and depth of content and creative connections to challenge the biggest streamers, such as Netflix and Disney +. Discovery revealed last week that it had reached 20 million paid streaming subscribers worldwide to its direct-to-consumer services, including Discovery +, by the end of its third quarter on September 30. Global HBO and HBO Max subscribers increased 1.9 million to 69.4 million in the third quarter.

For Wednesday’s event at the Paley Center, Zaslav was interviewed by The New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta, with the session titled “Creating a Media Giant: What’s Next?” “


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