- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
“The theatrical business is here to stay,” Warner Bros. Discovery is saying “100 percent yes” to theatrical windows, and local content is an important complement to global hits, the conglomerate’s president, international Gerhard Zeiler told a Royal Television Society (RTS) gathering in London on Tuesday.
Zeiler spoke during an appearance at the RTS London Convention 2022 in a conversation with ITN journalist Nina Hossain, discussing the vision for the new media and entertainment giant and its plans to harness its brands to engage audiences.
“The vision is actually quite easy. We are a content company,” Zeiler said when asked about the vision of the merged Warner Bros. Discovery. “We tell stories” in many, many ways, including in feature films, TV series, animation, sports, news, documentaries and games. He touted the “breadth” of how the firm tells stories, while highlighting “the development and quality” of content, from DC and HBO franchises, including Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, as a key mandate for the company’s management team. “That’s not possible in a creative industry,” he said, though, when asked if hit films can be predicted with certainty.
Discussing the company’s distribution strategy, he said it is similarly broad-based, highlighting that the conglomerate was saying “100 percent yes to the theatrical business” and exclusive cinema windows. “Everyone who believed cinema is dead has been proven wrong and will be [shown to be] wrong in the future,” Zeiler argued. “The theatrical business is here to stay, although, of course, the pandemic changed things.” For example, “not everyone is still feeling safe to go back to the cinema” after the COVID pandemic, and some may need a big film to make them go to a cinema, but movies continue to attract audiences and are a “must-have,” he said.
Overall, “we don’t believe that it makes sense to put all the content we have into one window,” Zeiler highlighted, arguing that was not what consumers want.
Touting the high current level of quality of content across the company and industry, he said it was “key” to “bring the best creators in.” In this context, he recounted how HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys bet on Euphoria when the idea was pitched to him.
Asked about the importance of local content for the company, he said, “to really be a top three player, you need to complement” the big global hits, such as House of the Dragon, Succession and Elvis, with “local relevant stories, maybe not in every single market of the world, but in a lot.” He cited Spanish originals as examples, including horror series 30 Coins. The same goes for local films, such as Warner’s Japanese and German movies, Zeiler said.
His comments follow much industry debate over changes at the company unveiled during the summer. With the merged conglomerate targeting profitable streaming subscriber growth and $3 billion in cost savings, the company said in July that it was adjusting its programming strategy for streaming service HBO Max in parts of Europe. It will no longer produce originals for HBO Max in the Nordics, the Netherlands, Central Europe and Turkey, the company said back then. It detailed that it would be “ceasing our original programming efforts for HBO Max in the Nordics and Central Europe” and had already ended “our nascent development activities in the newer territories of Netherlands and Turkey, which had commenced over the past year.” It added that the streamer would remove “a limited amount of original programming” to allow it to free up licensing deals. The firm’s original programming efforts in Spain and France are not affected by the strategy change.
Zeiler on Tuesday also touted “the really great” partnership and output deal that Warner Bros. Discovery has with Comcast-owned European pay TV giant Sky that is good “for both sides.” He also recounted that when WarnerMedia was owned by AT&T, he once went to AT&T CEO John Stankey to show him an annual letter from Sky to customers, which listed only WarnerMedia shows in promoting its success, rather than “at least 50 percent” in other years. “Look, they are having a good time with us,” he recalled telling Stankey.
But Zeiler also said that the sector giant would “one day probably” want to launch a streaming service in the U.K. outside of Discovery+, and that could affect the company’s current deal with Sky, which gives the latter exclusive rights to HBO shows.
Discussing his current boss, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Zeiler said: “Whoever knows David Zaslav, knows that he is very ambitious, and we are an ambitious company. … We want to be a top three media player, and I personally would be really disappointed if there is the number three in front of our ranking.”
The RTS convention’s theme this year is “The Fight for Attention.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day