Discovery chief David Zaslav didn’t exactly have a reputation for free publishing before his company’s merger with WarnerMedia. The quest for $3 billion in post-merger cost savings (“synergies,” in the preferred entrepreneurial phrase) didn’t change that idea, nor did a closer examination of some big blanket deals and an executive exodus.
However, the re-signing of HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys sends a signal that Warner Bros. Discovery isn’t going to mess with what works.
Bloys’ new contract will keep him responsible for the HBO and HBO Max brands for another five years, matching his term with Zaslav’s (the CEO extended his contract to 2027 last year, just after the merger was announced). As HBO and HBO Max continue to grow — the two combined to reach 76.8 million subscribers worldwide in the first quarter — Bloys could be locked out for the long haul so the creative community can rest assured that not too much will change to the prestigious brand of the new company.
That’s a good thing, because WBD has virtually scrapped scripted activities on its cable channels TBS, TNT and TruTV; considering that some 30 executives left the company after the merger; and scuttled JJ Abrams’ big-budget series demi-monde about budget concerns. Zaslav has also expressed frustration at the slow pace of output from some of the company’s big general deals, including the $250 million pact with Abrams’ Bad Robot.
However, Bloys can act from a strong position to protect the HBO brand from cost cutting. HBO and HBO Max have just earned an industry-leading 140 Emmy nominations, a full 90 percent of total revenue (155) for all Warner Bros. Discovery. HBO continues to make culture-defining shows like succession and Euphoriaand the first Game of Thrones spin off, House of the Dragon, will premiere at the end of August. HBO Max, meanwhile, has garnered enough viewership to enroll in rating company Nielsen’s monthly platform rankings, a year after it began offering a cheaper, ad-supported tier to its subscribers.
It’s not for nothing that Bloys’ expansion that comes on the heels of the company’s Emmy pull also helps change the story a bit from the plethora of post-merger stories of austerity and layoffs. Positive perception can go a long way in Hollywood; retaining Bloys at HBO and HBO Max suggests Zaslav and WBD are willing to play for both style and substance.