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David Zaslav on TNT Without the NBA, and the Disney-Max Bundle

David Zaslav on TNT Without the NBA, and the Disney-Max Bundle

Will TNT survive without the NBA? Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav seems confident that it will.

While acknowledging that the company is still talking to the NBA about a new rights deal (the league appears poised to give packages to Disney, NBC and Amazon, though WBD has some “matching” rights), Zaslav said that the company has been trying to bolster the sports lineup on its channels.

“We have been on a journey here in the U.S.” Zaslav said. “We added hockey with [NHL commissioner] Gary Batman; We added a summer of NASCAR; We just added college football; When you put that together with March Madness and baseball playoffs and the U.S. Soccer that we have, it is a very robust offering for consumers that they can watch on TNT In the U.S. all year round, and that is our job, is to continue to look at, how do we continue to nourish an audience that loves sports on TNT?”

“We’ve been very strategically focused on making sure that we have a robust offering of sports for each of our sports channels in the U.S.,” he continued.

Of course, Zaslav also touted WBD’s international sports offering, which includes European rights to the Olympics, and plenty of soccer rights.

He also addressed the Disney-Hulu-Max bundle and the upcoming sports streaming service with Disney and Fox, framing the deals as churn-fighters.

“For the bundle really to be effective, it needs to be that when you go there, you can move across the full program offering,” he said. “So, you know, my grandkids might be watching a Disney+ movie, but then when they’re finished, they would want to watch Harry Potter, and then at night, you might want to watch Succession. And so the seamlessness of it is important.”

“We have found that when you bundle together with other content that more people in the family like — on a very basic level — the more often you watch product, the more people in the family that watch the product, the lower the churn,” he continued.

And he addressed the question of consolidation, telling the Bernstein conference that as his company improves its balance sheet, WBD plans to be “opportunistic” but also “disciplined.”

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“I think there’s likely going to be some consolidation. There are a lot of players, a lot of players that are losing a lot of money,” he said. “One of the reasons why we really fought to drive our free cash flow and pay down our debt is to be in a position as we roll out globally, as we fight to build our business, we’re a healthy company, and over the next two to three years, I expect that there’s going to be some opportunities. There’ll be some players that that want to get out of the business. They’ll be some that will that will look to consolidate their streaming businesses with others. And so I think we will look to be opportunistic during that time.”

And of course there is one entertainment company whose future is very much in question right now.

In a lightning round when asked to react to single words, Zaslav was asked to respond to “Paramount.”

“Great storytelling heritage,” he replied.

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