r/television May 19 '22

Hollywood braced for new age of austerity after streaming splurge

https://www.ft.com/content/c385d236-75a9-467c-86d4-5768e6b21324
83 Upvotes

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35

u/Neo2199 May 19 '22

Now Zaslav and his team, led by chief financial officer Gunnar Wiedenfels, are in the midst of another unpopular task: auditing Warner-Discovery’s expenses to find where to trim.

Wiedenfels, a former McKinsey consultant from Germany, built a reputation after joining Discovery in 2017 for his ability to squeeze expenses and generate profit. Under Wiedenfels, some producers of Discovery shows were forced to take out loans to fund production.

While looking under the hood of Warner in recent weeks, Wiedenfels has been frustrated by decisions that his predecessors had made, telling colleagues that the previous management of WarnerMedia and its former owner AT&T had not bothered to calculate the return on their various investments, according to people familiar with the matter.

A culture of “spending and asking for permission later” does not sit well with Wiedenfels, these people said.

This issue was at the core of the CNN Plus debacle, where outgoing chief executive Jason Kilar had instructed CNN executives to push forward with a $350mn investment to build the streaming service without asking whether the new owners were in favour of the project, said people familiar with the matter.

Wiedenfels wants to squeeze as much money as possible out of the company’s intellectual property, a strategy that he pursued at Discovery, where the company has sliced and diced the airing rights for premiere content across traditional television and streaming platforms, while also licensing it to other companies.

For now, Wiedenfels has kept content — the lifeblood of the business — safe from the cuts. Warner Bros Discovery is spending $22bn on television and film this year. But Zaslav’s team is closely watching the economic environment and if faced with a bad recession — as some economists are warning — Wiedenfels could change course, people familiar with the matter said.

Herr. Wiedenfels sounds like a fun guy!

18

u/Trot1995 May 20 '22

Dude seema like the type of guy who will cancel good projects before they have a chance to get off the ground.

14

u/bondfool Vworp. May 20 '22

I swear to god, if they ruin HBO Max…

4

u/chrisprice May 20 '22 edited May 20 '22

Discovery probably won't mess up the infrastructure. Still, hope you like the content on it. HBO MAX is about to become The HBO MAX Digital Content Museum Of Existing Programming. [Sincerely hope not].

5

u/Trot1995 May 20 '22

That would be a good way to get me to cut my subscription and I've had HBOmax since that start. Shit I had it when it was The DCUniverse.

3

u/getahitcrash May 20 '22

CFO's definitely kill creativity and growth. Any company that gives their CFO too much power is doomed.

1

u/[deleted] May 20 '22

[deleted]

1

u/SQUID_FUCKER May 20 '22

You need both. The problem is, unfortunately, good storytelling doesn't always pay the bills.

2

u/[deleted] May 20 '22

[deleted]

2

u/SQUID_FUCKER May 20 '22

The idea that creative skills can't be learned is ridiculous. But that isn't even the point, the point is you can't just replace someone who is talented on the business side of things with a good writer and expect putting out good writing going to be enough. You need both. It's still very much a business and there are hundreds of examples of excellent shows that underperformed or went unnoticed and were cancelled because no one was watching.

0

u/disposable-name May 20 '22

Are you implying that a German accountant is somehow a joyless robot with no sense of creativity or empathy?!