To Be Competitive, Discovery-Time Warner Must Up Content Investment

Whatever you think about the potential Discovery-WarnerMedia deal, there are many who believe it came too late, including Barry Diller, former senior TV-movie executive.

“Netflix won this several years ago,” he told CNBC, when addressing streaming. “They’re the only ones that have the scale and momentum to keep making these somewhat lunatic investments in programming.”

His opinion concurs with other media analysts.

While WarnerMedia is better in the hands of longtime TV executive David Zaslav, president/CEO of Discovery Inc. than less effective AT&T executives lacking entertainment expertise, the road ahead is rocky.

Brian Wieser, president of business intelligence for GroupM Global, says though Discovery executives will be aggressive in pursuing a consumer-focused approach that started under WarnerMedia CEO, Jason Kilar, “history suggests this will not occur. Whatever the path forward, for now, the transaction seems likely to freeze the progress that Warner Media has made in establishing its business as a disruptive force in the industry.”



In short, any hesitation could mean big trouble.

He says Discovery’s history has been -- like other media companies -- focused on near-term cash flow efforts and financial returns to shareholders. “This is among the reasons why their primary streaming service Discovery+ has had only limited potential.”

The bigger-scripted TV and movie content business could be a boost to the narrower-targeting unscripted world of Discovery Inc.'s content.

But Wieser says even Discovery’s own description of itself is modest, which he calls “a relatively low-cost offering to a ‘mini-van’ relative to its competitors’ more premium ‘sports cars.’ Our guess is that most consumers probably prefer sports cars over mini-vans when given the choice.”

Discovery would need to rethink its modest ways quickly to compete in a bigger entertainment world.

Discovery had never over spent on content. It’s been proud of that fact. But now, it touts the two combined companies -- Discovery and WarnerMedia -- which will spend a collective $20 billion in content this year.

Can it really get on board with that and keep up with what Diller calls the “lunatic”-like Netflix content spending levels? We’re waiting for more crazy.

2 comments about "To Be Competitive, Discovery-Time Warner Must Up Content Investment".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 27, 2021 at 1:24 p.m.

    Based on some of his previous comments as quoted in the media and trade press, Barry Diller thinks that Netflix has already won the streaming "war" and is invincible. That remains to be seen. However, the point that is being missed by Barry and others is that you dont have to rush to Hollywood and plunk down $10 billion---or $20 billion per year for "original "content to succeed in streaming. And you don't have to beat Netflix in numbers of subscribers either.

    While the folks at Discovery may commission some originals to emulate Netflix, HBO, etc. in luring subscribers, their basic paln will probably be to rely on their huge "library" of ongoing "linear TV" content---alrady paid for by ad dollars---to stock their streaming libraries and, in effect, to capture cord cutters as well as subs to existing streaming services for SVOD/AVOD ventures. Thus they will compete mainly with Disney+, Peacock and Paramount+ ---not Netflix. So why invest huge sums on edgy and risky dramas and movies when you don't have to to be successful? There is more than one business plan that can work in streaming.

  2. Bill Shane from Eastlan Ratings, May 27, 2021 at 2:47 p.m.

    And I'm sure "more crazy" is what we'll be getting for the next 18 months.  I don't see these mergers as an attempt to surpass Netflix as much as I see all these companies like a group of baseball teams all joining under one banner like "Major League Media."  Sure there's a form of competiveness, but they're all playing a game.  Everyone would like to be #1 but the financial rewards of being #2,3,4 or even 5 should be enough - however, as we all know, no matter how big the profits, the money people will always want more.  More crazy?  Undoubtedly.

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