Lionsgate CEO Feltheimer on the HBO Max-Discovery Combo: 'You're Going to Throw It All in There, and That's Going to Be Worth $40 Billion?'

Jon Feltheimer and Mike Fries speak at SeriesFest in Denver in May 2022
Chief Executive Officer of Liberty Global Mike Fries and CEO of Lionsgate Entertainment Jon Feltheimer speak at SeriesFest Season 8: Innovation Talks at the Sie FilmCenter on May 06, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Image credit: Photo by Tom Cooper/Getty Images for SeriesFest)

"The family" presents a special relationship -- you can say things others maybe can't. 

Perhaps that's what Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer was thinking Friday when, speaking alongside Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries at SeriesFest in Denver, he gave "advice" to newly christened Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav. 

Feltheimer seemed to question Zaslav's core strategy: merging HBO with Discovery to achieve more scale will justify the $43 billion paid to AT&T to spin off WarnerMedia and merge it with Discovery. 

"HBO has such a refined, important brand, and even just frankly, expanding HBO to HBO Max, what do you do with that?," said Feltheimer, who's comments were related to Next TV Saturday morning by  SeriesFest reps.

"So now you add all of this Discovery product, nonfiction programming, and for what you paid what, $40 billion for enterprise value, right? And you gonna throw it all on there or  is that going to add $40 billion of value? I don't know," Feltheimer said. 

And he kept going: "One might have said, ‘Well keep it off to the side, it may be a discrete group of buyers and you're not cannibalizing that one plus one equals maybe less than two."

As Feltheimer also noted, HBO is a key client for Lionsgate, with the "mini-major" studio currently producing six shows for the outlet, including Julia and Minx

Notably, however, the ties between Lions Gate and Discovery run deep. Liberty Global, Discovery's largest shareholder, also owns a large chunk of Lions Gate, with both Fries and Zaslav joining the Lions Gate board of directors in 2015 when that latter position was consummated. Zaslav only stepped down from the Lions Gate board last year, when he was named CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery. 

For his part, however, Feltheimer didn't appear exactly cagey the whole session, which was also covered by the Penske Showbiz Trade Conglomerate's Deadline

When pressed by Fries to assess Netflix's suddenly challenging business climate, Feltheimer remarked, "They decided they were just going to do a slash and burn and get to more subs than anyone and no one would ever catch them. They would just spend and spend, and if anyone else tried to spend as much, they would go out of business. That was pretty much their strategy. But they got to a point where they started slowing down, and we had the pandemic. And I think that maybe they didn’t pivot quite quickly enough. But they’re going to pivot. They still have a tremendous business.”

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!