David Zaslav Promises “Real Focus on Franchises” in Warner Bros. Discovery’s Future

Warner Bros. Discovery has been a big question mark in the industry at the moment, which has led to many questionable decisions. Originals from HBO Max were just pulled from the platform and not made available anywhere else, Batgirl and a Scoob! sequel was scrapped close before wrapping work on it. In the latest earning call, CEO David Zaslav gave a tease of where their future lies and it may raise a few flags. First off, he promises a “real focus on franchises” and highlights two major entries from their portfolio.

We haven’t had a Superman movie in 13 years. We haven’t had a Harry Potter movie in 15 years. The DC movies and the Harry Potter movies provided a lot of profits to Warner Bros motion pictures over the last 25 years. House of the Dragon is a big example of that; Game of Thrones, taking advantage of Sex and the City. Lord of the Rings — we still have the right to do Lord of the Rings movies

David Zaslav

There’s some confusion about his quotes, as Man of Steel was released in 2013, which was nine years ago, and technically Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a Superman-centric sequel, which was released in 2016. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was in theaters in 2011, which is eleven years ago, and technically we still got an entry in that Wizard World franchise with Fantastic Beats: The Secrets of Dumbledore this year. Not a very promising way to sell people on the belief in IP while not understanding how long it has been since they released.

That isn’t all, as he also took his time to downplay the value gained by HBO Max and the use of original productions for the service. It seems that in his eyes, the viewership retention wasn’t strong enough on the streamer to justify its existence.

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.

David Zaslav

The quote does make you question the continued rise of investment in the market of streaming; Netflix even raised the budgets even higher due to the potential they see. The biggest comparison that may be the reason for this belief lies in the direct comparison to what Zaslav is used to, which is reality TV streaming. We might have apples to chainsaw type of comparison leading to the downplay of value gained from streaming originals.

The entire library shouldn’t be on HBO Max and paid for by HBO Max. We have an extraordinary library: Friends, Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men — there’s 15 or 20 series that are loved and nourishing the audience on a regular basis. But then there’s a huge number of series and movies that aren’t being used at all. If none of it’s being used, why aren’t we putting it on an AVOD where it will be used? We looked at what people are watching on Pluto and Tubi: They’re loving Rawhide and Bonanza. They’re not watching old series like Dynasty on Max. There is a platform where people have an expectation and what they want to watch, and we’ve been able to get a real vision into what people are consuming and ultimately that gives us a roadmap.

David Zaslav

There are many discussions on archiving media that streaming opened the potential to finally establish a home for those looking to revisit movies and TV shows they loft. It’s ironic that their own streaming platform proved the potential of legacy projects, Game of Thrones viewership saw an increase once House of the Dragon was released; highlighting a potential synergy on a streaming service. WBD’s current pure KPI-based decision making may be pushing their company to be even more sterile than what people have accused others in the streaming market of being. He even makes an oxymoron remark that the “golden age” isn’t over but also hints at focusing on saving costs on investment, taking no more risks.

Source: Deadline, Deadline

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