“Ours is a rapidly evolving industry and we are transforming with it,” Kilar said Wednesday at the start of WarnerMedia’s long-planned virtual upfront presentation for advertisers. He noted Monday’s announcement of a $43 billion transaction that will see WarnerMedia combine with Discovery’s unscripted and lifestyle channels.
“Together we will form a new company super-serving our advertising with a promise to unite WarnerMedia brands with Discovery brands all under one banner,” Kilar said.
But the surprise transaction has thrown Kilar’s future at WarnerMedia into doubt because Discovery CEO David Zaslav will lead the combined company once the deal is completed, which is expected next year. Reports emerged this week that Kilar was preparing to bolt the company sooner rather than later, in part out of frustration at being kept in the dark on the Discovery talks that began in February.
Kilar nodded to the uncertainty in his opening remarks but sought to keep the focus on the company as it stands now, as it’s likely to take as much as a year for the Discovery transaction to be complete. “While there is still so much more to come, for the moment it’s business as usual,” Kilar said.
WarnerMedia’s upfront touting new programming from TBS, TNT, HBO Max, CNN and other cablers opened with a pre-taped segment from Kilar that referenced Monday’s bombshell news. About 10 minutes later, another pre-taped segment had Kilar pitching the depth and breadth of WarnerMedia’s content across entertainment, news and sports.
Kilar also noted WarnerMedia’s massive reorganization that centralized the management of HBO, HBO Max and other entertainment cablers as well as the Warner Bros. studio under Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Networks and Studios. He pointed out that some 85 million people in the U.S. have access to one or more of WarnerMedia’s channels, giving the company “a larger footprint than any of the streaming services out there.”
Kilar told the upfront audience that all the changes within Warner Bros., HBO, HBO Max and Turner outlets were designed to “set the company up to effectively deliver on the scale and results that marketers need.” He added: “We are a company whose mission is to move the world through story. I’m so excited bout everything that is happening here at WarnerMedia. We look forward to doing great things together.”
WarnerMedia’s 75-minute upfront presentation closed with Kilar and Conan O’Brien, who is wrapping his “Conan” nightly TBS talk show after 11 years, standing in a soundstage while on large raised-platform crane devices. Both were wearing parachute harnesses. O’Brien joked about his plan to parachute down to the upfront presentation to demonstrate our flexibility and agility across all platforms.”
Kilar tells him the upfront ran long and there’s no time left for his stunt. Kilar’s platform is slowly lowered as O’Brien shouts ideas for new specials after his nightly show bows out on June 24.
“Jason where do you live,” O’Brien shouted as Kilar dropped out of view. “I think he’s my friend now,” O’Brien added.