Streaming Buoys Q1 Profit for Warner Bros Discovery, Despite Cable Declines

David Zaslav WarnerBros Discovery Deal
David Buchan/Variety

Warner Bros. Discovery said profit rose in the first quarter despite declines in traditional TV audiences, as revenue from advertising and distribution increased thanks in part to the company’s streaming initiatives.

Warner Bros. Discovery is essentially a new company, having completed its acquisition of the former WarnerMedia earlier this month. But the results released Tuesday do not include the WarnerMedia operations, which were disclosed earlier by the unit’s previous owner, AT&T. The company also declined to offer details on the number of streaming subscriptions for its stand-alone Discovery+ streaming venue.

First-quarter net income rose to $456 million, compared with $140 million in the year-earlier period.

In a statement, David Zaslav, the company’s CEO, tried to spotlight the merged company’s future, and not its recent past. Executives have articulated a strategy under which it offers a broad streaming option that consists of assets from across its portfolio, which includes both Discovery+ and HBO Max. Last week, the company abruptly shut down the operations of CNN+, a new subscription streaming offering from Warner’s CNN, suggesting that executives felt a stand-alone news product would get in the way of its wider streaming strategy.

“We are putting together the strategic framework and organization to drive our balanced approach to growing our businesses and maximizing the value of our storytelling, news and sports,” Zaslav said in the statement. “To do this, we have brought together a strong leadership team in a streamlined structure to foster better command and control and strategic clarity across the entire company. I could not be more excited about the massive opportunity ahead.”

The Discovery assets saw revenue increase 13%, to nearly $3.16 billion, compared with nearly $2.8 billion in the year-earlier period. Warner Bros. Discovery cited a 7% increase in revenue from its U.S. networks, buoyed by advertising from digital and mobile operations, as well as an 11% increase in distribution, aided by growth at Discovery+, for its results. International revenue, meanwhile, grew 25%, aided in part by ad revenue from the broadcast of the Winter Olympics overseas on Eurosport, Discovery’s European sports operations.