Discovery readies WarnerMedia merger amid uncertainty over CNN
As Discovery prepares to close its merger with WarnerMedia in April, its ultimate plans for CNN remain unclear.
Why it matters: It's a big area of the business to be left hazy. Even as he was praising CNN's coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Discovery CEO David Zaslav said the strategy for a CNN under Warner Bros. Discovery has yet to be formed.
- "We will in the next, in the near term, sit down and have a real business plan discussion with the people at CNN and CNN+. We haven't had that yet, we haven't seen it," Zaslav said Thursday morning during the company's quarterly earnings call with analysts.
Details: CNN is preparing to launch its own streaming service, CNN+, in the spring. But there is skepticism as to whether or not people would pay for a standalone CNN service.
- When Warner Bros. Discovery is formed, it will already include Discovery+ and HBO Max.
- One source offers that it might make sense for CNN+ to be part of some broader offering that includes HBO Max and Discovery+.
- CNN+ will have 8-12 live daily and weekly original series along with "more than a thousand hours of on-demand content" according to CNN press release on Wednesday.
- Other new streamers like HBO Max launched with 10 times that amount.
By the numbers: Discovery now has 22 million streaming subscribers, the bulk of that going towards Discovery+.
- That is still far behind other more established streaming services. HBO Max has more than 73 million subscribers.
- Netflix and Disney+ have more than 100 million each, with Netflix topping 200 million.
The big picture: Streaming is expensive and even those who show growth can get punished by a Wall Street crowd that is growing increasingly wary of streaming's long-term viability.
- Paramount Global's stock tanked the day after Paramount+ announced its best quarter of growth since its launch. Investors were doubly concerned with Paramount's plan to invest even more capital into streaming.
- Discovery execs cautioned they'll be more measured about their content spending.
- "It’s not about winning the spending war," said Discovery CFO Gunner Wiedenfels on the earnings call.
What's next: The merger is expected to close in mid-April, a source familiar with the deal tells Axios.
- There are still a few more boxes to check, starting with the Discovery shareholder vote on March 11. The deal has already received regulatory approval in the U.S. and European Union.
- The first step after the deal closes will be putting together a leadership team under Zaslav, which will likely include new heads of news, sports and entertainment. Current WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar is expected to depart after the merger closes.
- As Axios has previously reported, it’s likely Zaslav will keep his Discovery leadership team intact for many of the non-creative functions. Don't expect to see a larger leadership team announcement before April.