Amazon was launching its $500 million Lord of the Rings TV series, and it was marketed to attract potential audiences to its fictional epic. So, naturally, it’s called Warner Bros. DiscoveryThe owner of HBO Max, a competitor to Amazon Prime Video.
The Lord of the Rings And The Hobbit The films are handled by Warner Bros. and were discontinued exclusively for streaming on HBO Max by the company’s previous owner. The trilogy, which generated nearly $3 billion in box office revenue and included some of the best-known IPs in the HBO Max film library, was now poised to catch on, at least on a non-exclusive basis. Whereas previously, WarnerMedia enthusiastically defended its films for HBO Max, now Warner Bros. Discovery is open about the fact that, well, they are, as CEO David Zaslav puts it, “open for business.”
“We have a ton of material that’s just sitting idle for purely theoretical reasons,” WBD CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said at a Bank of America event on Sept. 8.The Lord of the Rings is a great [example]: This is a non-exclusive window [and] We look at it as what we’re giving up versus what additional revenue we’re generating,” the CFO said, noting that “our own platform also has a positive impact.” WBD received an undisclosed amount in licensing revenue (effectively monetizing a movie while “sitting stupidly”, in Weidenfels’s words), while Amazon was able to garner potential TV series audiences before launching with iconic movies. was.
but The Lord of the Rings WBD is not the only franchisee willing to mine others. The Batman animated series in development is also being purchased from JJ Abrams. Bruce Timm, Abrams and Matt Reeves took the show on the road this week and last for a series of big pitches to major streamers. Chain, Batman: Caped Crusader, originally planned for HBO Max before the WBD merger. At press time, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu are the big contenders.
And while it’s not going to be part of any of the larger live-action DC universes, Batman is still one of DC’s most popular IPs. “Once you’ve decided that your streaming ambitions aren’t your ‘North Star,’ why not license as many as possible?” Lightshade analyst Rich Greenfield wrote in an Aug. 10 research note. “Streaming services only have value in the catalog if you can spend meaningful daily time where customers are losing out on your service.”
The decision marks a major change for the company, which halted as much content as possible for HBO Max under Jason Keeler and AT&T to rapidly grow its subscriber base. (HBO and HBO Max had 76.8 million subscribers before WBD updated subscriptions to include Discovery+.)
While Warner Bros., of course, is no stranger to licensing content, its TV division has long been one of the most aggressive about selling shows to other networks and platforms. But the message from the C-Suite seems clear: There’s a new sheriff in town, and they’re willing to deal even more. It’s also the exact opposite of Disney, which has leaned into controlling all of its content.
At the Code conference on September 8, former CEO Bob Iger recalled selling Disney movies to Netflix to learn about streaming distribution. “It was very interesting to see what could become possible as Netflix grew – and our consumption of movies on our platform grew,” he said. “As they began to use their increased distribution and revenue to create original content to compete with our core content, it became clear that we were selling nuclear weapons technology to a developing country, and they were now were using it against us.” Now WBD is headed down a different path, with the rest of Hollywood sure to take a closer look at both strategies.
Boris Kitt contributed to this report.
This story first appeared in the September 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Please click here to subscribe,