Warner Bros. Discovery Sets Sights on 200 Million Sub Mark

Warner Bros. Discovery
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Discovery)

To be a player in the streaming world, the opening ante is 200 million subscribers.

On Discovery’s earnings call Tuesday, CEO David Zaslav was asked about reports the company was interested in Britain's Channel 4. The reply was essentially “no comment” and “small potatoes.”

To Zaslav what is important is closing the deal that will combine Discovery with AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit, forming Warner Bros. Discovery and getting the company up to scale.

“We’re focused on 200 million global subscribers. This is not about niche,” Zaslav said. 

“For me, after we close this deal, it is going to be two absolute missions. Mission number one is drive direct-to-consumer to 200 million subscribers in every language in the world. And with a product that’s easy to navigate and use.”

Zaslav said Warner Bros. Discovery would be starting with a good base because both companies are growing their streaming subscriber numbers.

But based on where WarnerMedia and Discovery finished the second quarter, they still have a long way to go to get to 200 million, like Netflix and The Walt Disney Co.

Last month, AT&T reported its earnings and said that it had 67.5 million global subscribers between HBO Max and HBO. The company said that by the end of the year, it expected to have between 70 million and 73 million subscribers under its belt.

In its second-quarter results, Discovery said it finished the second quarter with 17 million direct-to-consumer customers and had 18 million as of Tuesday.

The 17 million figure disappointed Wall Street and sent Discovery and other media stocks reeling. Discovery was down more than 4% in afternoon trading. 

Zaslav said he expected Warner Bros. Discovery to be one of the streaming winners because of its focus.

“We’re not in the phone business when this deal closes. We’re not in the retail business, we’re not in the cloud business. We’re not in the cable business. With that singular focus, I think we’ll drive a great culture,” he said.

“I do think that there’s a lot of players that are sub-scale and a lot of them are going to be figuring out over the next couple of years what they do. And the good news for us is we think our hand is very, very strong,” he said.

Zaslav said that his No. 2 focus is having the best creative company in the world. 

“We see that Warner Bros. seal and it stands for something. It stands for great storytelling,” he said. 

The movie business will be important to the new company, Zaslav added. “It’s the patina. It’s why the greatest writers and producers and creative talent came. When you look up at the big screen, that’s where stars are made and that’s where the magic happens.” 

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.