Warner Bros. Discovery reveals plans for free streaming service
Warner Bros. Discovery, the media colossus formed this year by the fusion of the parent companies of HBO and Animal Planet, revealed the scope and strategy of its streaming ambitions for the first time, telling investors on Thursday it would offer free and paid services, with the goal of reaching 130 million paying subscribers by 2025.
David Zaslav, the company’s chief executive, said one new product would be a single paid subscription streaming service with programming now distributed on HBO Max and Discovery+.
He also said the company would launch an unnamed free streaming service supported with advertising, hailing the new company’s “bouquet of owned content.”
“The fact is there are only a handful of companies globally that can do what we do,” Mr. Zaslav said. “And putting it all together, we believe no one does it better than us.”
He did not say what the new streaming services would be called, or how much the company would charge for the paid version. The combined subscription service will be available next summer.
The executives at Warner Bros. Discovery have major challenges ahead. The company was saddled with $55 billion in debt when it went public in April, the result of a spinoff that combined AT&T’s WarnerMedia division with Discovery. Mr. Zaslav is facing pressure to pay down that debt while competing with giants like Netflix and Disney in the costly streaming wars.
The company is also facing expectations from Wall Street to cut costs. Warner Bros. Discovery has said it will find about $3 billion in savings between the two companies, a corporate imperative that will result in layoffs for overlapping business functions.
Mr. Zaslav and his lieutenants have already done some work on that front. In April, one of their first moves was to shut down the CNN+ streaming service, a moonshot subscription product that was promoted as the network’s bridge to the future.
Mr. Zaslav has told Wall Street that he doesn’t expect Warner Bros. Discovery to win “the spending war,” signaling a more disciplined approach to the pricey streaming business.
In the months before Discovery took control of Warner Bros. and HBO, Mr. Zaslav went on a roadshow of a sort in Hollywood. His message seemed designed to reassure a skeptical movie industry: We may be reality-television people, but we love theaters and have deep respect for your unique, time-honored culture, including catering to talent.