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David Zaslav Says Content Companies Are Talking About Building New Bundles

The new bundles are coming, according to Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.

Speaking at a Goldman Sachs conference Wednesday, the executive said that his company has had discussions with other companies in the content space about developing new bundles to create a better “consumer experience.” Those conversations have picked up “in the last few months,” Zaslav said.

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“You know, as we talk to consumers, they find it difficult, and so I think one of the things that we’re going to see as we look into the future is bundling,” Zaslav added. “Some of this disruption and some of these moments of what’s going to happen may activate a quicker transition to things like some of us in the content business bundling together as a way to create more value and create a better consumer experience.”

He gave the example of Max’s recent experiment to offer content from AMC Networks for a limited window.

“That was Kristin Dolan [AMC’s CEO] and JB [Perrette, WBD’s streaming chief] getting together and saying, ‘Why don’t we try this, let’s see how it goes.… Let’s see whether that helps you grow your AMC direct-to-consumer product.”

But the “disruption” cited by Zaslav was also top of mind at the conference. Earlier this week, the company said that the ongoing writers and actors strikes would mean a hit of up to $500 million on the company’s 2023 earnings.

“If we can get a result soon, then the longer-term impacts will be minimized, but there are real industry challenges here,” Zaslav said, though he added that the company believes writers and actors should be paid “fairly” and be “valued” by their corporate partners.

“We’re a content company. We’re storytelling company. We need to do everything we can to get people back to work,” he said. “But more importantly, it’s true of creative people, but it’s true for all of us: People need to be compensated fairly, and they need to feel valued.”

Zaslav also said that he believes talent also want to see their work have an impact.

“Great writers, directors, actors, they want their content to be seen,” he said. “They want to have a chance to have an impact on the culture. They want to have a chance to have an impact on how people see themselves and see the world, and that’s what we get to do in this business. But only if we do it together.”

As for the ongoing Charter Spectrum-Disney dispute, Zaslav acknowledged that “it feels like this is a moment,” but he noted that the outcome of the showdown remains to be seen, and that his company does not have any major deals coming up until 2025.

“We’re on the sidelines of this,” he said. “I think we’re one of the good actors in the industry that’s spending a lot of money still in linear because we believe in it.”

And he addressed the success of Barbie, which he credited to his company’s marketing approach.

“When we said we’re going to run this as one company, we meant it. Every division of this company got behind Barbie,” he said. Shaq and Barkley and Ernie [Inside the NBA’s Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson] were talking about Barbie. If you went to Sweden and you were watching a football match, at halftime the field turned pink and you saw Barbie. Every asset that we had was turned pink, talking about the strength of Barbie. We had shows on HGTV, every cake on Food Network for a month was pink. Anywhere you went you saw it, and this is the power of Warner Brothers.”

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