“The family” presents a special relationship — you can say things others maybe can’t.
Perhaps that’s what Lions Gate CEO Jon Feltheimer was thinking Friday when, speaking alongside Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries at SeriesFest in Denver, he gave “advice” to newly christened Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav.
Feltheimer seemed to question Zaslav’s core strategy: merging HBO with Discovery to achieve more scale will justify the $43 billion paid to AT&T to spin off WarnerMedia and merge it with Discovery.
“HBO has such a refined, important brand, and even just frankly, expanding HBO to HBO Max, what do you do with that?,” said Feltheimer, who’s comments were related to Next TV Saturday morning by the quick-on-their-feet SeriesFest publicity team.
“So now you add all of this Discovery product, nonfiction programming, and for what you paid what, $40 billion for enterprise value, right? And you gonna throw it all on there or is that going to add $40 billion of value? I don ‘t know,” Feltheimer said.
And he kept going: “One might have said, ‘Well keep it off to the side, it may be a discrete group of buyers and you’re not cannibalizing that one plus one equals maybe less than two.”
As Feltheimer also noted, HBO is a key client for Lions Gate, with the “mini-major” studio currently producing six shows for the outlet, including Julia and Minx.
Notably, however, the ties between Lions Gate and Discovery run deep. Liberty Global, Discovery’s largest shareholder, also owns a large chunk of Lions Gate, with both Fries and Zaslav joining the Lions Gate board of directors in 2015 when that latter position was consummated. Zaslav only stepped down from the Lions Gate board last year, when he was named CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery.
For his part, however, Feltheimer didn’t appear exactly cagey the whole session, which was also covered by the Penske Showbiz Trade Conglomerate’s dead line.
When pressed by Fries to assess Netflix’s suddenly challenging business climate, Feltheimer remarked, “They decided they were just going to do a slash and burn and get to more subs than anyone and no one would ever catch them. They would just spend and spend, and if anyone else tried to spend as much, they would go out of business. That was pretty much their strategy. But they got to a point where they started slowing down, and we had the pandemic. And I think that maybe they didn’ t pivot quite quickly enough. But they’re going to pivot. They still have a tremendous business.”