Photo: Warner Bros. Discovery
In the Race to the Top, it’s Kill or be Killed
In what now feels like an ever-evolving industry constantly in a state of flux, seemingly every passing day has news of a new sale or merger of one content company with another. In what was a long-drawn-out process that just recently closed, Discovery Media officially completed their acquisition of Warner Bros. Media from AT&T for 43 Billion dollars. Yes, Billion with a big ole capital “B.”
In one of the highest dollar value acquisitions of all time that contained such an incredibly vast array of different departments, the deal promised an incredible shakeup across the industry and an opportunity for a fresh business model for the newly formed content giant. Now that it has officially been completed, the hypothetical questions have been answered and we are living in a much different world than we were even two months ago.
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Warner Media is an interesting enigma of a company, as this version of the Warner Bros. company has only existed for a few years. Having been previously bought by AT&T a few years back, Warner Media saw the company create new sectors of content and the creation of their very own new and formidable streaming service, HBO MAX. Also having ownership over such brands as HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT, The CW, Turner Sports, and many many more, the deal was incredibly valuable for Discovery when considering what they now have under their purview. Having control over such a wide array of content operations is good for anyone’s business, but Discovery sees an even bigger opportunity to make their own tremendous impact in the film and tv world across different verticals and is embracing the future of the streaming future of the industry.
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Warner Bros. Discovery – There’s a New Sheriff in Town
Discovery has gotten busy right away by consolidating and folding certain departments that they deemed either unnecessary or irrelevant with their new combined departments. Discovery made huge ripples recently as they have even gone so far as to cancel shows currently on the air and pull the plug on TBS and TNT creating any further original content at all. This spelled doom for shows like ‘The Last OG’ starring Tracy Morgan and ‘Chad’ which were swiftly canceled in the wake of the merger. More is yet to be announced on the future of a few other currently airing shows, but the company has made clear TNT and TBS are done with creating new content, a clear departure from the strategy set by AT&T when they took over the wheel of the film and television giant.
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Even more drastic measures were taken with the newly launched CNN+ streaming service which also met its demise within the same month it debuted. A similarly core example of the grandiose attitude of Warner Media in the eyes of Discovery, they nixed the streamer seemingly overnight. A dramatic move for sure, but a very clear signal that this new company is not here to play games and is rapidly preparing itself to be one of the last remaining content companies when the dust settles. AT&T leaned heavily into using every asset they had on each TV station and streamer they controlled to fire off as much content as possible, but Discovery seems keen on reversing course and narrowing its scope.
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The moves have been harsh when considering the livelihood of the people working on these shows, but the decisions symbolize a true reckoning and re-evaluation of what a successful giant like Discovery can do to continue to strengthen its core business. The arm’s race has been effectively on for the past few years with each streamer trying to consolidate and control as much of the industry as they can. With Amazon’s acquisition of MGM a few months back, they clearly demonstrated an understanding of the idea of getting ahead of your own demise. Similar to Amazon, Discovery is aware of the continuing necessity for these companies to keep themselves in check and evolve as opposed to staying put and thinking the same formula that has always worked will still be how the world works in the future. This ability and necessity to adapt and take chances on making significant changes are critical, and David Zaslav who was the CEO of Discovery and is now overseeing Warner Bros. Discovery is clearly a student of history.
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Zaslav has been heavily featured in the trades over the past few months and he has carved out a strong profile for himself throughout as the clear leader of the merger. His reputation precedes him and Zaslav seems content with captaining this newly formed ship straight into what he envisions will be the future of content. With everyone like Amazon and Disney also completing large-scale significant purchases of other legacy studios, Zaslav has made a massive move at the poker table of content competition to make Discovery a major player when the dust settles. With everything happening rather quickly especially considering the current demise of Netflix, Zaslav looks incredibly wise for securing this deal now.
The Human Element and What Comes Next
While it is important to recognize the business savvy and game-changing moves of how this merger will impact the content game, so too does it shake up a lot of talented people who lost their jobs. With a high number of positions now redundant in the new company due to crossover, a tremendous number of people were let go in the wake of the two companies combining forces. It is always impossible to actually know the truth in all things, but it is even more painful knowing this deal was in the world for so long and Warner Media employees were assured their jobs would be fought for.
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No one can predict the future, but we now find ourselves in a fascinating time akin to the wild west for talented employees. As the industry continues to get smaller and smaller as more companies consolidate into one another, jobs become increasingly competitive. Leaving the industry with a high amount of talent to be had and not enough places to put them all, the system is in a sort of wild flux and chaotic setting. We have talked about it to death over the past ten years back when Netflix and Amazon changed the game with streaming, but it really does not seem stupid to suggest we will just constantly be in a state of continuing flux in the industry. Gone are the Golden Age days of the studio system and here to stay are the constantly evolving times we currently live in.
I for one am fascinated to see what comes next for all of our content developers. Netflix finds itself in a very chaotic moment that we will need to see if they can pull through. If not, they may find themselves up for sale and looking to move on from their current business model. Amazon has their new studios established in Culver City and after securing MGM, what may be next on the horizon for them? While the industry seems incredibly chaotic, it is also a tremendously exciting time we are living through with so much change and smart, motivated people ready and willing to deliver great content for us all.
By Mark Raymond
Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.
I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV. media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.”
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Mark Raymond is a writer and screenwriter who believes himself to be the only person desiring to work in film who originated in New York and currently resides in Los Angeles. Mark was inspired to write from a young age and has always desired to connect and uplift others through his work, as those that motivated him did for him. Mark feels very strongly that the world could use a lot more positivity and optimism, and is therefore very aligned to the mission of The Hollywood Insider to not spread hate or gossip, but instead to build each other up and shine a positive light on anyone bold enough to put their heart and soul into a piece of art. In his writing, Mark aims to use his signature wit to highlight the severity of the more serious and pressing issues of our time, to shine a beacon of light through the darkness. A devoted ally to all, he seeks to inspire and use his platform to give a voice to the voiceless and let his readers know that while everything may not be great right now, one day it can and will be.