For decades, the cable television bundle has had a staunch advocate in David Zaslav, the president and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery who first oversaw NBCUniversal’s portfolio before doing the same thing at Discovery. Well, we’re past the heyday of meager cable channel bundles, but Zaslav is ready to apply the same logic to streaming — and no, we’re not just talking about combining HBO Max and Discovery+ into Max, the new app from WBD launching Tuesday. The question becomes, are Zaslav’s competitors ready to join forces with him or will they let the tech companies do it? TO They?
At the SVB MoffettNathanson conference on Thursday, Zaslav cited “one of the challenges in the industry right now” is consumers’ confusion about where to find “the content they love.” It makes for both a bad user experience, something HBO Max knows all about, and it’s just plain bad business, he said.
“Everyone googles ‘Where is it?’ How can I get it?’” Zaslav said at the inaugural conference of the research firm on technology, media and telecommunications. “It’s not rational and it’s not really sustainable.”
Furthermore, it is not rational to solve the problem through further consolidation of media companies, Zaslav said, which would take too much time and entail too many regulatory hurdles. He should know: The merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery, Inc. closed about a year after the first information about the negotiations, and this was considered quick. (However, it’s a pretty convenient opinion to have about a year removed from its mega merger, but we digress.)
However, it is not That kind of consolidation that needs to happen here, Zaslav explained, but consolidation in “repackaging and marketing products together.” If the top three services in each market were combined “that would be great for consumers” and would “probably reduce churn,” he continued. Either content owners, like a Warner Bros. Discovery, can do it in the next few years, or “it will be done to us,” Zaslav cautioned during his 50 Minutes keynote speech.
Yes, Zaslav, who didn’t appear on stage or screen at the Warner Bros. Discovery Wednesday upfront, had a lot to say the day after.
(Here seems like a pretty good place for it: We were told by a Warner Bros. Discovery source that Zaslav “still believes in the cable bundle” but “has his eyes clear” on his future vis-à-vis streaming.)
“Amazon will do it, or Apple will do it, or Roku will do it,” Zaslav said. “They’ve already started doing that, and it makes sense. Many people will go to those platforms as a simpler cure of what they like.
When Max launches on Tuesday, it will be available on Amazon Fire devices, Apple TV devices, and Roku devices. But, you know, Max will be separate from Netflix and Disney+.