Discovery CEO David Zaslav promises that the company is not in a race to win the “spending wars” on content when it closes its deal to acquire AT&T’s WarnerMedia and become Warner Bros. Discovery.
“We’re going to spend more on content — but you’re not going to see us come in and go, ‘Alright, we’re going to spend $5 billion more,'” Zaslav said during an investor call Thursday to discuss the company’s Q4 earnings results. “We’re going to be measured, we’re going to be smart and we’re going to be careful.”
As Variety reported Wednesday, insiders say AT&T and Discovery are preparing to close the $43 billion transaction in mid-April, though the public line from both companies is still at some point in the second quarter.
Zaslav says the new company — which will run both Discovery’s current major streamer Discovery Plus and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max — will be “looking to monetize our IP to grow the value of the overall company.”
“As I said, we are a real company. What I mean by that is, we’re going to be generating $8 billion or more in free cash flow,” Zaslav said. “So we have plenty of money to spend. That already assumes that we’re going to spend more money on content, but we’re not going to just spend just to have more content on the platform.”
He continued: “The key to these platforms, which is true of free-to-air channels and cable channels, is you spend enough that you could nourish an audience that they want to spend time with you and that they feel that you’re the place that they want to be and you’re important. Low churn, high usage and usage by many people in the family. And we’re going to be very careful about looking at how we do. And we believe there’s a chance that we’re going to do quite well. And we also have very low-cost content and that we’re not going to have to increase investment significantly. That our bouquet will be differentiated and compelling. But we do have the resources if we see that spending more will get us more growth and lower churn and good economics on ARPU. But we’ll be very careful because we have a real company that’s generating real value.”
Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels echoed Zaslav’s point on the call, saying “it’s not about winning” those spending wars and “spending more money doesn’t score goals.”
“We spent more than $4 billion for content in 2021 at Discovery alone — and obviously also on the WarnerMedia side they’ve been increasing the spend,” Wiedenfels said. “So we are definitely spending enough, from my perspective. The key question is going to be, how much is going to be enough going forward?”
Discovery revealed Thursday it reached 22 million paying streaming subscribers across its portfolio of offerings by the end of 2021. Discovery Plus accounts for the bulk of that customer tally. WarnerMedia reported last month that HBO and HBO Max closed the year with 73.8 million global subs.
(Pictured above: Food Network and Discovery Plus star Bobby Flay and Zendaya in HBO’s “Euphoria.”)