Warner Bros. Discovery shares were battered Friday on the heels of its after-market second-quarter earnings report on Thursday that revealed the depth of the financial and operational pressures that the newly enlarged conglomerate is facing.
WB Discovery shares were down more than 17% at midday to the $14.50 range. At the close of trading, the stock was down 16.5% to $14.59. The valuation of the company has plummeted in the four months since Discovery completed its spinoff transaction with AT&T. As of Friday, it stood at $35.4 billion, far off the $43 billion pricetag for the transaction that closed in April.
On Thursday, WB Discovery posted a loss of $3.4 billion that included a $1 billion write-down for restructuring charges and the new regime’s evaluation of some of the content on that was left for them on the shelf at what was WarnerMedia during the AT&T regime.
As WB Discovery faces pressure to pare down debt, maintain healthy free cash flow and grow global streaming subscribers, CEO David Zaslav and WBD chief financial officer Gunnar Wiedenfels were frank with analysts during a 95-minute conference call Thursday afternoon about the revelations that his team have had during the first 100 days of operating HBO, Warner Bros. and the Turner basic cable networks.
WB Discovery made headlines earlier in the week with the decision to table plans for a dircect-to-HBO Max release of the DC Comics movie “Batgirl,” starring Leslie James. Amid pressure to cut debt and deliver cash flow, the new regime made the decision to table the project to take a $90 million tax write-off rather than spend more on the film to market its release. That’s a hard-nosed financial calculation that makes sense on a business ledger but set off alarm bells in Hollywood’s creative community.
“Strategically we’ve looked hard at the streaming business and how direct-to-streaming movies perform. The idea of expensive films going direct to streaming — we can’t find an economic case for it. We can’t find an economic value to it so we’re making a strategic shift,” Zaslav said.