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Uncertainty in Atlanta for Turner brands amid Warner Bros. Discovery merger

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Zaslav and his management workforce are trying to construct an empire to outlive a shifting media panorama and tackle competitors in streaming from the likes of Apple, Amazon, Disney and Netflix.

The futures of 5,000 staff in Atlanta and 40,000 complete across the globe are tied to Zaslav’s skill to make this creation successful.

In remarks at a city corridor in California April 14, Zaslav appeared to know the problem.

“We have to now come collectively as one tradition, one tradition that begins with individuals feeling protected, individuals feeling valued for who they’re,” Zaslav stated.

Absent that, he famous, “you possibly can’t be inventive.”

DiscoverA timeline of the Turner media empire

‘We have now the products’

Warner Bros. Discovery declined to touch upon the way forward for its Atlanta properties and it’s too quickly to say what impression the merger could have right here.

It was simply six years in the past that AT&T purchased Time Warner, together with CNN and the Turner networks, for $85 billion, with hopes that content material and distribution would work collectively. However it wasn’t a perfect match.

Throughout AT&T’s possession, the previous Turner properties in Atlanta shrank from about 6,000 staff to five,000.

Warner Bros. Discovery is now completely shopper content material, which means movies and film franchises like “The Matrix” and “Shazam!,” TV collection resembling “Intercourse and the Metropolis,” “Recreation of Thrones” and “Associates,” information like CNN and sports activities resembling NCAA March Insanity and the NBA playoffs.

It’s additionally a raft of cable networks like Meals Community, HGTV, TLC and Discovery with corresponding reveals that includes the likes of Man Fieri, the Property Brothers, “Dr. Pimple Popper” and sharks.

And all that content material will doubtless find yourself in a single place for what Warner Bros. Discovery sees as the way forward for leisure consumption: streaming.

Paid TV subscriptions peaked in 2010 at 105 million households or about 90% of properties. That number is now around 76 million, according to Leichtman Research Group, whereas 83% of households currently subscribe to at least one streaming service.

HBO Max, piggybacking on its present HBO subscriber base, is already one of many extra fashionable choices with almost 50 million home subscribers. Discovery+, which debuted in early 2021, hit 22 million by the tip of 2021.

Warner Bros. Discovery desires to be in the identical league as larger streaming rivals Disney+ and Netflix.

“We have now the products. We have now the prospect to be the best media firm,” Zaslav declared to Oprah Winfrey at a city corridor on the storied Warner Brothers movie studios in Burbank, California two days after visiting Atlanta.

DiscoverCNN+ streaming service to shut down after a month

At the moment, the mixed entity has a number of separate streaming providers.

Discovery+ is sort of completely unscripted reveals. HBO Max, which WarnerMedia launched two years in the past, contains every thing from “The Batman” film to “Sesame Road.” Then there’s the newly launched CNN+.

Losing no time, Zaslav killed New York-based CNN+, which debuted March 29 underneath earlier administration and might be passed by Could 1.

New administration desires all its streaming providers underneath one umbrella and with $55 billion in debt as a part of the merger, can also be seeking to trim $3 billion in prices comparatively shortly.

Sarah Smith labored at Turner Broadcasting within the Nineteen Nineties and 2000s and continues to collaborate on tasks with each Turner alums and lively Warner Bros. Discovery staff. She stated many staff she is aware of there have been disenchanted underneath AT&T however wonders if debt pressures will trump new administration’s efforts to construct a wholesome work atmosphere.

“They paid an excessive amount of for it,” Smith stated. “A brand new tradition conflict will occur and a massacre will ensue.”

CNN, nonetheless, stays a serious precedence for the brand new firm and remains to be extremely worthwhile, in line with Kagan, a media analysis group, despite the fact that it generates decrease scores and revenues than Fox Information.

05/17/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — The outside of the CNN Middle constructing positioned at Atlanta , Monday, Could 17, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit score: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

05/17/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — The exterior of the CNN Center building located at  Atlanta , Monday, May 17, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit score: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

05/17/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — The outside of the CNN Middle constructing positioned at Atlanta , Monday, Could 17, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit score: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit score: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Streaming has shortly degraded the worth and relevancy of a few of Turner’s former crown jewel cable networks resembling TNT, TBS and Cartoon Community, which all have sizable footprints in Atlanta.

Since HBO Max launched, TNT and TBS haven’t introduced any new scripted reveals. And TBS’s marquee expertise Conan O’Brien final yr ended his 11-year-old discuss present on the community for an unspecified future HBO Max program.

“These manufacturers are on auto pilot,” stated Al Meyers, a former vp of strategic planning at Turner from 1998 to 2008. “They’re mature companies. They should keep related to keep up charges with cable operators.”

The saving grace for TNT and TBS: stay sports activities, which has stored many households tethered to cable subscriptions. (Turner himself as soon as owned the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Hawks and World Championship Wrestling, and used the franchises to offer content material for TBS and TNT.)

“Contained in the NBA” studio crew, from left, Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and Charles Barkley. (Edward M. Pio Roda/Turner Sports activities/TNS)

Credit score: TNS

"Inside the NBA" studio crew, from left, Shaquille O'Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny "The Jet" Smith and Charles Barkley. (Edward M. Pio Roda/Turner Sports/TNS)

Credit score: TNS

“Contained in the NBA” studio crew, from left, Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and Charles Barkley. (Edward M. Pio Roda/Turner Sports activities/TNS)

Credit score: TNS

Credit score: TNS

Through the city corridor assembly, Zaslav touted the facility of sports activities. What was as soon as referred to as Turner Sports activities has spent billions lately to maintain the rights to such key sports activities occasions because the NCAA March Insanity, the NBA playoffs and the MLB playoffs. These video games largely air on TBS and TNT, although it’s inevitable that some will migrate to HBO Max.

A lot of the sports activities broadcasting operations are in Atlanta, together with TNT’s signature present “Contained in the NBA” that includes Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley.

In what Zaslav dubs Warner Bros. Discovery’s “conventional enterprise,” he sees an enormous and worthwhile benefit for the corporate because it funnels some that money move into constructing HBO Max.

DiscoverPhotos: Ted Turner through the years

Deep ties

It’s been greater than 1 / 4 century since Turner bought Turner Broadcasting to Time Warner and a decade since most key administration left Atlanta for New York.

However Turner, now 83, stays a strong image inside Warner Bros. Discovery. The corporate launched a photograph by way of social media of Licht and Zaslav with Turner, who has been affected by Lewy body dementia lately. Zaslav referred to as Turner “a hero.”

“Discovery has at all times been a really sturdy cable programmer,” Meyers stated. “And Zaslav is a confirmed chief. So long as he believes in and commits to CNN, Atlanta will proceed to have a really giant presence.”

CNN nonetheless has main operations at CNN Middle, together with its digital operation, CNN Worldwide and Robin Meade’s morning present on sister station HLN. About 40% of the corporate’s Atlanta staff work at CNN.

AT&T sold CNN Center last year to a Florida-based funding group and a CNN spokesman stated operations will doubtless transfer to the Midtown campus, the place CNN initially began, in a yr or extra.



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