Warner Bros. Boss Talks ‘Game of Thrones’-Sized Dreams for ‘Westworld,’ Growing Franchises

Kevin Tsujihara
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The strong opening for “Westworld” on HBO has Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara thinking big — “Game of Thrones” big.

“I am really, really excited about the opportunity that we potentially have with ‘Westworld,'” Tsujihara said at the Credit Suisse Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in Phoenix on Tuesday. “If you look at the viewer data on ‘Westworld,’ its first year viewing on all platforms is greater than ‘Game of Thrones.'”

Tsujihara hastened to add that “Westworld” — which drew 3 million or more viewers across multiple platforms in its maiden season — has a ways to go to match mega-hit “Game of Thrones.” That epic occasionally brought HBO audiences of 8 million, or more, per show.

“I am not saying it’s ‘Game of Thrones.’ I am not saying it’s going to be ‘Game of Thrones,'” Tsujihara said. “But if gives you a context of where it sits this first year that just finished this week.”

The Warner Bros. boss said he believed that television and episodic programming was one of the best areas for the studio to “move the needle” substantially in terms of revenue and profit. He said he hopes that Warner’s TNT/Turner operation will soon land a big hit as well.

Another substantial growth opportunity for Warner Bros. will be in consumer product sales, Tsujihara told the conference, the 20th annual Credit Suisse event.

“I think there is hundreds of millions of dollars of opportunity there alone, in addition to each of the other pieces,” Tsujihara said. “It requires a level of excellence in the creative piece of it all … but that’s what we are executing on and I feel very comfortable with where we are going.”

Tsujihara said these products are driven by name-brand intellectual properties like WB’s DC Comics line and the J.K. Rowling-driven “Fantastic Beasts” series of films. Those franchises are only growing in importance — taking up an increasingly large percentage of the overall theatrical box office, the Warner Bros. chief noted.

“We think we are going to have a disproportionate share of those [so] we are going to have more shots on goal,” Tsujihara said.

Tsujihara also said that Warner Bros. needs to find a way to bring audiences first-run movies in their homes closer to the date of theatrical premieres. He said the studio has been making progress with theater owners to allow that to happen.

“We are having very constructive conversations with the exhibitor for first time we have had in a long time,” Tsujihara said. “And what we said is that, all things being equal, we want to figure it out with you. We are working out with them to figure out a new window. … We have to offer consumers more choices, earlier. … We think its an imperative. We are going to do it.”