David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, will move to Los Angeles to lead the new content giant that will be created through the merger with AT & T’s WarnerMedia, which is expected to close in mid-2022, the manager said on Wednesday.
“I’m moving to California,” LA to be more precise, with an office on the studio lot because “that’s where the content is done, this is a content company,” said the man who will also be CEO of the combined Warner Bros. Discovery the Paley Center’s Paley International Council Summit in a session that was webcast. “I’ll be very practical.” And he added, “The better our content, the better our chances of being the world’s leading media company.”
However, Zaslav said he would return to the east coast regularly to attend other key operations, including CNN.
Will Zaslav try to hire a creative director or other manager between his role as CEO of the merged company and the bosses of Warner Bros. and HBO? “We have ideas about” the structure, but he said he’s not ready to introduce them yet.
The industry veteran also addressed the size and consolidation in the media and entertainment industries. “There will be considerable consolidation in the next five years,” predicted Zaslav. “I think we are big enough now and have the artillery we need in this interim and disruption war.”
He described Netflix and Disney as “formidable” competitors and said that “we have a bigger library than Netflix”. Zaslav also referred to the merged company as “the largest media company in the world”.
When asked about Netflix, he also said that “they made meaningful use of the moment” when media users wanted content anytime, anywhere. But Warner Bros. Discovery has advantages, said Zaslav, emphasizing: “We can open a film anywhere in the world.”
“Other media companies are mostly content pickers, but Warner is” a doer, “said Zaslav.
Regarding the future of big creator deals, the Discovery boss suggested, “I don’t think these reviews will continue,” said Zaslav, since some companies, along with Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros. Discovery and Amazon, may not be big enough to compete on this subject. And they may not be able to compete qualitatively with the merged Warner Bros. Discovery. “Yes, money matters,” but the general “environment,” including the trust, brands, platforms and support for creatives, is key to making decisions about where to go as a creative, he argued.
When discussing films, Zaslav also said: “I believe in the cinema business”. He later also predicted that movie theaters would stay in business for a long time. “It’s about community. … I don’t think that will change. “
When asked about the Dave Chappelle special controversy on Netflix, Zaslav said he saw the special, but “I’ll leave the details to that” [co-CEOs] reed [Hastings] and Ted [Sarandos]. ”However, he stressed that the company was purpose-driven and wanted to make people feel safe while enjoying artistic freedom, and said it was keen to find that“ balance ”.
“News is very important” because it makes people wake up, said Zaslav when asked why Discovery was an investor in the UK’s conservative news broadcaster GB News. When asked what he thought of Fox News, he said, “It’s 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 announced that former top Disney executive and “old friend” Kevin Mayer will consult Discovery on the future of streaming as the merger’s planned completion, expected in mid-2022, approaches. He declined to comment on anyone else’s future at the time when asked about plans for CNN boss Jeff Zucker, who is an old friend of his.
Among the seasoned entertainment industry executives he spoke to to learn as much as possible about movies and the history and future of the movie business, he mentioned Sherry Lansing, Warner legends Bob Daly and Barry Meyer, and the former CEO of Time Warner Jeff Bewkes helped him with her insight and said, “It was a great luxury.” He’s also spoken to creatives like Chuck Lorre, Greg Berlanti, Rob Reiner and Larry David and said, “It’s a great treat for me. These are my heroes. I love this business. “
Discovery and AT&T are going through the official review process of the planned merger without any problems and see “broad support” for it, Zaslav said at the beginning of August. Pascal Desroches, CFO of AT&T, also said at an investor conference in September that he “couldn’t be more satisfied” with the regulatory review process so far. We are very pleased with how this is turning out, ”he said, adding,“ There is no reason why this merger should not be approved.
In mid-May, Discovery presented the mega-merger with WarnerMedia, in which Zaslav is to lead the merged company. AT&T shareholders will receive shares representing 71 percent of the new company, while Discovery shareholders will own the other 29 percent. The combined company is expected to have sales of $ 52 billion in 2023 and the companies are targeting cost synergies of $ 3 billion.
He and CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels also said last week that the combined company’s debt burden would be lower than originally expected, making the management team even more optimistic about their ability to quickly reduce the debt burden after the combination.
Streaming will be a major focus for the combined Warner Bros. Discovery, with Zaslav repeatedly saying that it has the breadth and depth of content and the creative relationships to challenge the biggest streamers like Netflix and Disney +. Discovery announced last week that by the end of the third quarter on September 30th, it had reached 20 million paying streaming subscribers worldwide for its direct-to-consumer services, including Discovery +. Global HBO and HBO Max subscribers rose 1.9 million to 69.4 million in the third quarter.
For Wednesday’s Paley Center event, Zaslav was interviewed by Ken Auletta from the New Yorker, and the session was titled “Creating a Media Behemoth: What’s Next?” wore.