Top station group executives see deeper fragmentation and more strain on the network-affiliate relationship as upshots of a new joint venture sports streaming service announced earlier this month by Fox Corp., Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney. This story is available to TVNewsCheck Plus subscribers only. Become a subscriber here.
Local broadcast station groups plummeted in value this week after Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Fox announced they will be launching a new joint venture focused on sports fans. However, according to EW Scripps CEO Adam Symson, says Wall Street is overestimating the new product’s popularity, saying investors appear to be pricing in that local ABC and Fox affiliates wouldn’t be part of the new skinnier bundle. They will be included, he said, citing assurances he’s been given in conversations with Disney executives. “Affiliates are going to be compensated for being carried along,” Symson said.
Professional sports leagues including the National Football League and National Basketball Association were kept in the dark about the new sports-centric streaming service being launched by Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery, people familiar with the matter said. The companies involved in the effort are media partners of both leagues. Pro basketball and football programming will be among the significant drivers of the new service.
Wall Street analysts break down the plan by Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Fox to launch a joint streaming venture that has rights to the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, college football and NCAA March Madness basketball.
The three companies will each share one-third ownership in the joint venture. A name for the service and pricing will be announced later. The platform will include games from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, WNBA, NASCAR and college sports, including the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament, as well as golf, tennis and the FIFA World Cup.
Warner Bros. Discovery probably won’t see a transformative M&A deal this year — and given negative trends in its TV and streaming businesses, Wells Fargo analysts issued a downgrade on the media conglomerate’s stock. Wells Fargo on Monday downgraded its rating on WBD stock from Equal Weight from Overweight and trimmed its price target from $16 to $12 per share. Shares of Warner Bros. Discovery were trading down 2.4% Monday, at about $10.36/share.
The media conglomerate said Thursday that it plans to hold a presentation for advertisers at 10 a.m. ET on May 15 at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, where it will call attention to media brands such as Max, Food Network, CNN, HGTV, TBS, Discovery, TLC, Bleacher Report and Discovery+. The ranks look to be heavier with streaming properties than traditional linear ones.
CEO David Zaslav announced the news in a memo to staff Friday. Variety has learned Brown decided to step down himself, following his tenure getting the company through its merger between the legacy Discovery and WarnerMedia, which closed in April 2022. A respected communications veteran, Brown also led the PR strategy for the launch of Max, the combined HBO Max and Discovery+ streamer, in May 2023.
Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global have held talks about a potential merger of the two media companies. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav met with Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish in a lunch meeting Tuesday in New York where they discussed a possible merger, sources said. Zaslav also has talked with Shari Redstone, whose National Amusements Inc. owns a controlling stake in Paramount Global, about a potential combination of the companies.
“As we’ve talked about many times, the one constant in our business and industry these days is change,” said JB Perrette, CEO and president of global streaming and games.
Andrea Zapata, Warner Bros. Discovery’s EVP, ad sales research, measurements and insights, will be leaving the company at year end to take a post with T-Mobile. At Warner Bros. Discovery, Zapata spearheaded the effort to use new currencies from measurement companies including VideoAmp and Comscore for advertising sales. The move follows the departure of Kelly Abcarian from NBCUniversal, where she had been EVP, measurement & impact and led the charge to improve TV measurement.
Warner Bros. Discovery cable warrior Kathleen Finch is heading into her Super Bowl: the holiday season at Food Network. “Fans come and we supersize them and super serve them with all this holiday content, daytime content, and primetime stuff,” she says.
Netflix has started running promos prominently on the platform in the U.S. that Young Sheldon will be “coming soon.” The first five seasons of the popular Warner Bros. TV comedy series, which is set to end its run on CBS with the upcoming seventh season, will start streaming on Netflix in the US starting Nov. 24. In the U.S., the Big Bang Theory spinoff had been streaming on Warner Bros. TV sibling Max which landed the exclusive streaming rights in 2020 having also secured exclusively the mothership series. Max had been billed as the U.S. streaming home of the Big Bang Theory franchise that also includes a new spinoff in development as a Max original.
Warner Bros. Discovery’s third quarter was mixed with Barbie coin and free cash flow beloved by Wall Street offset by sluggish advertising and the impact of the actors’ strike on the one of the industry’s biggest content creators.
Streaming, which turned profitable in the first quarter ahead of most rivals, but lost $3 million in Q2, was back in the black to the tune of $111 million despite a net subscriber loss as Discovery+ users continued to migrate to Max, which showcases lots of Discovery programming. Subs declined to 95.1 million in the third from 95.8 million in the second quarter. Streaming revenue was up 5% to $2.4 billion on price hikes, which are sweeping the streaming landscape, and digital ad revenue that’ growing off a small base.
The new company, Free TV Networks, targets value-conscious consumers with a portfolio of national ad-supported over-the-air and FAST channels. Two new diginets will launch in 80% of the U.S. on New Year’s Day
Warner Bros. Discovery will overhaul the executive structure of its global consumer products and franchises division, the unit that oversees the management of its intellectual property as well as DC Comics. Pam Lifford, president of the group, is stepping down to focus on a family member’s health care needs, the company said Wednesday, and Bruce Campbell, Warner’s chief revenue and strategy officer, who has oversight of the division, will have new direct reports. Robert Oberschelp. who has been head of the consumer products business in North America. will become the new head of the division, and will report to Campbell.
How CNN Max could be as sticky for SVOD as it’s been for pay TV.
As Major League Baseball‘s post-season continues, Warner Bros. Discovery wants to talk baseball or beisbol. Starting Oct. 16, the company’s sports division will launch “Postseason ALTcast: Peloteros,” a so-called “alterna-cast” that will feature cultural conversations centered on the NLCS and the game of baseball as told through diverse voices and representation within the Hispanic community. The broadcast will appear on the TruTV cable network and the Max streaming hub while the traditional game broadcast appears on TBS and Max.
The potential end of the Hollywood writers strike sparked a jump on Monday in movie and streaming industry stocks, led by Warner Bros Discovery and Paramount with shares of Disney, AMC Entertainment, and Netflix also rising. Warner Bros and Paramount were the biggest gainers, up 1.44% and 1.5%, respectively. Disney rose 0.5%, while AMC was up 0.6%. Netflix edged higher by 0.5%.
David Zaslav said today that Warner Bros. Discovery had anticipated putting Hollywood strikes in the rear-view mirror this month, but with no end in sight, he added that “we” would “fight” to find a resolution. “I was in L.A. the last two days, and we really have to focus as industry — and we are trying — to get this resolved in a way that is really fair and everyone feels fairly treated,” he told investors at a Goldman Sachs media conference. “In our guidance, we said that this would be resolved in September. And here we are in September. And this is really a very unusual event to have. The last time it happened was 1960. And so what we did is, we just said we are really going to fight to get this resolved.”
The financial impact of ongoing actors and writers strikes has a number on it now, or one at least, as Warner Bros. Discovery said today it’s looking at a hit of $300 million to $500 million in adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) for 2023 due to the work stoppages.
Amazon.com Inc. and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. are competing to broadcast a new package of Nascar races, with the league trying to boost its overall revenue by bringing in more media partners. The companies are vying with a third broadcaster for a package of between six and eight races during the summer months, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private negotiations.
The CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, a conglomerate that includes Warner Bros. studios, CNN and HBO, takes on an entertainment business in turmoil.
Jackson was EVP and head of global content supply chain, but quietly left the business in recent months.
Warner Bros. Discovery reported spotty financial results in the second quarter, but delivered better-than-expected free cash flow. The company posted a loss per share of 51 cents, which was worse than the 42 cents expected by Wall Street analysts. Revenue dipped 4% from the prior-year quarter to come in at $10.358 billion, a shade less than the Street’s number. Ditto streaming subscriber numbers, which showed a loss of 1.8 million subscribers and a tally of 95.8 million.
Marybeth Strobel and Greg Regis lead agency-focused teams, while Jon Diament heads sports sales.
Several of the country’s biggest entertainment and streaming companies are teaming up to fight hundreds of local broadcasters over a years-old provision that would determine whether they are forced to negotiate directly with those local stations for distribution deals. The Preserve Viewer Choice Coalition, which launched Wednesday, is made up of major entertainment companies and their broadcast networks, including Disney/ABC, Paramount/CBS, Fox Corp./Fox, NBCUniversal/NBC/Telemundo, Warner Bros. Discovery, Univision and Roku.