In the last year and change, Warner Bros. Discovery and its CEO David Zaslav have been at the center of a lot of discussion, much of it not flattering. Zaslav has been ruthless in his efforts to save billions to help ease the company’s massive debt load, which included axing more than $2 billion worth of movies and TV shows. We’re also talking about a company that scrapped finished movies, most notably DC’s “Batgirl.” Sadly, this trend caught on, and other studios have begun purging stuff from streaming services and canceling projects, even projects that are already filmed.
This has helped to illustrate just how messy the streaming wars have become in the aftermath of the pandemic. Everyone went all-in on streaming in an attempt to emulate Netflix’s success and, during the pandemic when everyone was trapped at home, that worked out okay. Now though, streaming growth has largely halted and the long-term realities of surviving in this business have changed. Not every streaming service that currently exists will make it in the long term. Others will join the media scrap heap alongside the ill-fated Quibi in the coming years. Nobody wants to be the next Quibi. So, what’s the solution?
The prevailing belief is that more high-profile media consolidation will come in 2024 and beyond. Even though Warner Bros. Discovery is scarcely more than a year old, it’s easy to see why an acquisition could be on the horizon. NBCUniversal, in particular, makes sense as we’re looking at two slightly smaller studios, compared to a giant like Disney, joining forces to survive in the long run. Peacock is losing billions annually and seemingly has no path to becoming a real player in the streaming game. Max — formerly HBO Max — may be better positioned but is still struggling to find an identity. Their powers combined? That’s a company that feels like it would be too big to fail, the massive pile of debt that would result from such an acquisition notwithstanding.