Warner Bros.’ post-merger growth woes Discovery and its $3 billion cost reduction target hit its programming strategy in Europe, Variety can reveal.
As the media conglomerate seeks to recalibrate its streaming priorities, it will no longer produce originals for HBO Max in the Nordics (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland), Central Europe, the Netherlands and Turkey, and will also remove certain content from its platform. in order to release license agreements elsewhere.
In a statement shared with Varietya spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery said:
“As we continue to work on combining HBO Max and Discovery+ into one global streaming service showcasing the breadth of content from Warner Bros. Discovery, we are reviewing our current content proposition on existing services. As part of this process, we have decided to remove a limited amount of original programming from HBO Max, as well as to cease our original programming efforts for HBO Max in the Nordics and Central Europe. We have also ceased our nascent development activities in the new territories of the Netherlands and Turkey, which had started during the past year.
“Our commitment to these markets has not changed,” the statement continued. “We will continue to order local content for Warner Bros. Discovery’s linear networks in these regions and we remain significant acquirers of local third-party content for use on our streaming services.”
The news, which was shared with staff and production partners on Monday morning, will be a blow to the local drama community as well as the highly respected HBO Max team in Europe, who formulated just a few months ago his wish list for European scriptwriters. producers as part of a much-requested session at the Series Mania theater festival in late March. Some of the streaming service’s most beloved international shows to date, such as Swedish sex comedy “Lust” and Danish family drama “Kamikaze,” hail from the Nordic countries.
While original development will be immediately halted in the aforementioned territories, programs already in production will continue, and it is understood that a number of green lights that have yet to be announced will also move forward. However, some of those shows may be sold to other platforms — a move that gives WBD more licensing opportunities elsewhere.
As part of the restructuring, some European originals and some US shows are also coming out of HBO Max globally. The Hungarian drama “The Informant” as well as “Lust” and “Kamikaze” will all be removed from the service.
Two territories that are spared from the redesign are Spain and France, where the originals will not be affected. This is likely because Spanish content travels well for HBO Max, which has a large footprint in Latin America and also serves the US Hispanic market. Meanwhile, although HBO Max hasn’t even launched in France yet, strict French content quotas for streamers under the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive mean it’s unlikely a strong French roster is something Warner Bros. Discovery can afford to lose.
Following Monday’s shock Originals restructuring, layoffs are likely across the European business, although specific details are still unknown.
The news will no doubt have wide repercussions across Europe where the production sector has – despite its occasional grumbling over rights – embraced new commissioning opportunities heralded by new streaming entrants. The HBO team, in particular, has earned the respect of local producers given its long span of expansion of European originals for the legacy brand.
HBO Max in EMEA is led by Antony Root, Executive Vice President and Head of Original Production for WarnerMedia EMEA. His team includes Johnathan Young, vice president and editor of original production for Central Europe; Miguel Salvat, who has the same role in Spain; Christian Wikander for the Nordics; and Vera Peltekian for France.
Priya Dogra, who is based in London and recently put together her management team, is President and Managing Director for EMEA, excluding Poland. JB Perrette is CEO and President of Global and Interactive Streaming, while Gerhard Zeiler is President of International.
Variety understands that a similar decision-making for HBO Max is currently underway in all territories where the streamer operates, which covers the United States, Latin America and parts of Europe.
The logic of the programming pivot is both strategic and financial. Overall, the company wants to create a smarter window for Discovery+ and HBO Max content before the services are rolled into a single offering. It’s also likely that WBD will look to leverage its IP across many different platforms and global divisions of the company rather than just through its streaming operation. What’s more, the move comes as Wall Street takes a closer look at the streaming landscape after Netflix’s subscriber slump last quarter and share price plummeted.
As Variety reported last month, WBD’s share price has fallen steadily since the combined company began trading on April 11 after Discovery’s deal closed for WarnerMedia. WBD’s current market capitalization is approximately $34.29 billion, but the company has approximately $55 billion in debt.
In June, analysts cited the need for more “clarity” around the media conglomerate’s direct-to-consumer strategy, with JP Morgan analysts noting: “WBD has the strengths and potential savings to reinvest in DTC, but we are skeptical of the company’s ability. to grow in all of the other side of the synergies.
WBD announced earlier this year a plan to save $3 billion in the first 24 months after the deal closes. Much of that, CEO David Zaslav warned, would come from “investment avoidance,” which mirrors the restructuring of European originals.
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