As he recontorts the content strategy (and budget) of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav is making a bet that technology has forever changed the way kids consume content, particularly live-action fare.
Some eighteen months ago, the company once known as WarnerMedia announced that it was going to increase its investment in kids and family content tenfold. At the time, then-C.E.O. Jason Kilar, under the auspices of AT&T and John Stankey, was planning to order more than 3,000 episodes and films for the family division of HBO Max and the Cartoon Network, which was set to become a cornerstone brand for the streaming service. This was part of a broader directional recognition that streaming services needed to provide bundled value to all members of a family unit. In 2019, after all, with Disney+’s launch on the horizon, Netflix doubled down on its own family and children’s programming, which was being watched by about 60 percent of the platform’s global audience. Kilar was determined to fight for market share.
Ever since WarnerMedia and Discovery combined to create Warner Bros. Discovery, however, C.E.O. David Zaslav has treated many of Kilar’s decisions as mere suggestions or simply irritants as he seeks to manage Wall Street’s expectations by finding $3 billion in synergies across the company, simultaneously growing its streaming ambitions while paying down its staggering debt. CNN+ was an early casualty. As my partner Matt Belloni has noted, even J.J. Abrams is susceptible to Zaz’s cost-cutting.
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