Warner Discovery CEO says streamers will do fewer shows of higher quality after drop in subscribers


Warner Discovery CEO David Zaslav says streamers including Netflix will do fewer shows of higher quality after shock drop in subscribers – and insists he isn’t bothered by tanking CNN ratings

  • Warner Discovery CEO says industry’s focus will be creating fewer, better shows 
  • David Zaslav, 62, made the remarks Tuesday at Sun Valley Conference in Idaho
  • The remarks come after Netflix’ shocking drop in subscribers last year
  • Zaslav also addressed changes at the company’s 24-hour news network CNN
  • CNN has also seen a drop in ratings, and now – under the new CEO Chris Licht – the network is looking to reinvent itself to appeal to all political parties  

Warner Discovery CEO David Zaslav says the streaming industry will focus on creating fewer, better shows of higher quality after a Netflix subscriber slump. 

Zaslav, 62, who arrived at the the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho on Tuesday in good spirits, also insisted that he isn’t bothered by tanking CNN ratings as the network pivots back to neutral reporting.

Speaking about streamer issues, Zaslav told reporters:  ‘Warner Bros. Discovery’s got great, quality content,’ he added. ‘So I think the world has changed. And it’s not about how much, it’s about how good. And so we’re pretty excited about our new company and getting to see everybody in this beautiful setting. It’s going to be a lot of fun.’

Warner Discovery owns streamer HBO Max, which has a better reputation for high-quality shows than Netflix.

Zaslav didn’t reference a single streamer when discussing quality over quantity.

But Netflix’s recent shock 200,000 drop in subscribers was blamed on the streamer’s drossy content, much of which appeared to prioritize woke issues including pregnant men over entertaining viewers.

Zaslav did praise Netflix’s recent decision to release the latest season of its show Stranger Things week-by-week, rather than dumping all episodes at once.

He said: ‘I think we’re all going to experiment. We gotta create more content that people will pay for before dinner, or that they rush home to see.

‘That’s our focus: great storytelling. That’s what Netflix is focused on. If we continue to do great content we’ll do great.’ 

Zaslav, 62, who arrived at the the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho on Tuesday in good spirits, also insisted that he isn't bothered by tanking CNN ratings

Zaslav, 62, who arrived at the the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho on Tuesday in good spirits, also insisted that he isn’t bothered by tanking CNN ratings

The media mogul has been running Warner Bros. Discovery since the merger of Discovery Inc. with WarnerMedia was completed in April.

Zaslav is himself rumored to have cut back on orders for his streamers in a bit to shore-up quality.

While HBO Max is the home of buzzy megahits like Euphoria and The Gilded Age, it has faced condemnation over the disappointing Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That. 

Zaslav told reporters that he expects the conference – which is an invite-only gathering of business media and tech moguls – to be ‘a great week’ amid ‘a lot of turmoil in the business,’ Bloomberg reported. 

‘The world has changed and it’s not about how much, it’s about how good,’ Zaslavsaid on Tuesday. 

‘I think it’s gonna be a great week — lotta turmoil in the business,’ Zaslav said. ‘But that means, I think, a lot of opportunity.’   

Zaslav also addressed CNN’s drop in ratings, which have not seen a boost from its coverage of the Jan. hearings last month. 

The company is now looking to reinvent the 24-hour news network by appealing to both political parties. 

Zaslav insisted it will take time for ratings to grow again when CNN sheds its reputation for liberal soapboxing, and says he is happy to wait.  

One of Zaslav’s first moves with the company was to hire Chris Licht to replace ousted Jeff Zucker. 

CNN's ratings continue to slip in primetime to their lowest numbers in seven years, despite a public about face on sensationalism and opinion shows under new boss Chris Licht

CNN’s ratings continue to slip in primetime to their lowest numbers in seven years, despite a public about face on sensationalism and opinion shows under new boss Chris Licht

The company is now looking to reinvent the 24-hour news network - including shows like Anderson Cooper's - by appealing to both political parties

The company is now looking to reinvent the 24-hour news network – including shows like Anderson Cooper’s – by appealing to both political parties

‘I think Chris is doing a great job pivoting CNN,’ Zaslav said. ‘Journalism first. America needs a news network where everybody can come and be heard; Republicans, Democrats. I think you’re seeing more of that at CNN. I think it’s the greatest news brand in the world with the greatest journalists. And we’re going to lean into that. We’re not going to look at the ratings and, in the long run, it’s going to be worth more.’ 

One of Zaslav’s plans for the company that he has spoken about is to merge HBO Max and Discovery+ into one platform. He confirmed at Sun Valley on Tuesday that this is still the plan, adding: ‘we’ll talk about how we’re going to do it, and when, soon.’ 

Zaslav also praised competitor streaming service Netflix on Tuesday, specifically how they released episodes of ‘Stranger Things’ in installments, rather the entire season all at once. 

Reed Hastings (pictured in 2019), the co-CEO of Netflix, arrived at the conference Tuesday

Reed Hastings (pictured in 2019), the co-CEO of Netflix, arrived at the conference Tuesday

‘I think we’re all going to experiment,’ he said. ‘We gotta create more content that people will pay for before dinner, or they rush home to see. That’s our focus: great storytelling. That’s what Netflix is focused on. If we continue to do great content we’ll do great.’

He also praised Netflix’ co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos, who both arrived at the conference on Tuesday. 

‘Stranger Things’ is a great, great, terrific show. And Netflix is a great company; Reed and Ted,’ he added. 

Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley conference officially begins on Wednesday and a number of high-profile media moguls are expected to attend. This is Zaslav’s first time attending the conference. 

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