Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Monday, March 14th, 2022

Post by: Rick Ellis 14 March, 2022

Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Monday, March 14th, 2022. 

Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels, who will also serve as CFO of the newly combined Warner Bros. Discovery, said Monday during the Deutsche Bank 30th Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference that Discovery is making preparations to combine the two streamers, which is the headline that most people are taking away from his presentation. But it's worth noting that he also said the two apps would be bundled in some fashion in the near-term, as the company figures out the best way to integrate them together:

"One of the most important items here is that we believe in a combined product as opposed to a bundle… We believe that the breadth and depth of this content offering is going to be a phenomenal consumer value proposition,” Wiedenfels said. “The question is, in order to get to that point and do it in a way that’s actually a great user experience for our subscribers, that’s going to take some time. Again, that’s nothing that’s going to happen in weeks — hopefully not in years, but in several months — and we will start working on an interim solution in the meantime. So right out of the gate, we’re working on getting the bundling approach ready, maybe a single sign-on, maybe ingesting content into the other product, etc., so that we can start to get some benefits early on. But the main thrust is going to be harmonizing the technology platform. Building one very, very strong combined direct-to-consumer product and platform, that’s going to take a while.”

I will admit that I was not expecting the company to push an integrated product so early in the process. Given the technical challenges involved in integrating the two services, I anticipated Warner Bros. Discovery would take the approach with HBO Max and Discovery+ that Discovery has taken with its Magnolia app. Allow people to continue to subscribe to a standalone Discovery+, or get access for free (or for a couple of dollars) with an HBO Max subscription. And that sounds as if it might be option in the short-term.

I have been very skeptical of this merger, which seems to be driven more by the belief that bigger is better than any specific business model. The combined company will end up costing consumers more money, especially on the linear television side as Warner Bros. Discovery will use its size to force price increases on every cable company, satellite television service and vMVPD. 

Part of my skepticism is also the result of my experience with other large mergers. Anytime a company continues to tout "marketing synergy," what they're really saying is that they are going to save money by combining the PR and marketing efforts of the two companies. As if size somehow makes it easier to promote new content. In fact, history tells us that the larger the media company, the more difficult it is to properly maximize content value and promotional efforts. A perfect recent example of that is Netflix, which continues to struggle to properly promote the flood of new programming being added to the service each week.

I am also not convinced that there is a natural synergy between subscribers of HBO Max and Discovery+. Studies commissioned by Discovery in the past seem to show that the people who watch their networks programming the most tend not to watch a lot of other content. Honestly, I'm not sure how much overlap there is going to be between people happily watching House Hunters and those watching Euphoria. But that fear doesn't appear to be an issue for the executives at Warner Bros. Discovery:

"The combination could not make more sense than what we’re doing here,” Wiedenfels said. “We have HBO Max, with a more premium, male-skewing positioning, and then you’ve got the the female-positioning on the Discovery side. You’ve got the daily engagement that people enjoy with Discovery content versus sort of the event-driven nature of the HBO Max content. Take that together, I have no doubt that we will be creating one of the most complete, sort of four quadrant, old-young-male-female products out there. And I’m really excited about it. I can’t wait to see the first combined direct-to-consumer metrics because, in theory, the acquisition power of HBO Max, combined with the retention power of the Discovery content I think is going to make for a blowout DTC product, and that should certainly drive very healthy revenue growth for years to come."

The phrase "in theory" is doing a lot of the work in these comments. But the prevailing attitude seems to be "we know these are very different audiences, but it we force everyone onto the same app, we can properly aggregate and monetize a larger pool of subscribers." I am extremely skeptical of this theory, which gives me a lot of flashbacks to the dinosaur days when a merger of Time Warner and AOL seemed like a great idea. In both cases, this idea of using synergy to maximize revenue seems optimistic at best.

Aside from the strategic issues, I also have difficulty wrapping my brain around what this combined app might look like. HBO Max is already a content-filled mess and adding the wide range of Discovery+ content to the mix seems like a dangerous move. Which is why I've always leaned towards the idea of keeping the apps separate. That still leaves plenty of opportunities for "synergy," while allowing the combined company to dodge the big logistical and technical challenges.

It's also worth reminding everyone that the HBO Max and Discovery+ services look very different outside the United States. Discovery+ has a strong live sports component in Europe and in some other regions. Figuring out how to integrate that into one app isn't impossible. But it requires building individual regionalized apps for the combined service. Which I am told by people inside HBO Max involves a staggering level of complexity.

In the end, I wish industry reporters and analysts were more skeptical of this merger, or at least the challenges the combined company will face. The technical issues are going to extremely challenging and I think people underestimate how difficult it is going to be to properly market and promote all of the worthwhile programming.

Odd are that if you subscribe to HBO Max, you might have watched an episode or two of Selena + Chef, a series in which Selena Gomez gets help from a chef to cook some new dish. It's a fun format and it was extremely easy to film during a pandemic.

What you might not know is that HBO Max has begun creating regionalized versions of the format in other markets and last week two of those versions were added to the U.S. version of HBO Max. Sandy + Chef stars Sandy Leah Lima, a Brazilian singer-songwriter and actress. Lima is huge in Brazil and some other parts of South America. She first came to prominence with the duo Sandy & Junior, which she formed with her brother. The two of them went on to have two of the best-selling Brazilian albums of all-time and as a solo artist had three hit albums. She also starred in a television series and was a judge for two seasons on the reality competition series Superstar.

Juanpa + Chef stars Juan Pablo Martínez-Zurita Arellano, commonly known as Juanpa Zurita. He's a high-profile Mexican social media influencer, vlogger, actor and model who has a strong presence among Spanish-speaking teens across the Americas.

It's great that HBO Max has added these two shows in their U.S. app and Sandy + Chef in particular is a charmng and fun show to watch. But for whatever reason, HBO opted not to dub the episodes and simply added English subtitles. Which feels like marketing malpractice, given the small amount of money (relatively) that it would have required to get the shows dubbed into English.

I get it. Dubbing is expensive and that is especially the case when you are dubbing languages with smaller audience sizes. For instance, Spanish into South Korean isn't just expensive, it's difficult to find people capable of doing the job. But dubbing into English is the lowest-hanging fruit in the dubbing world and I'm surprised HBO Max didn't make the effort with shows that don't have a lot of voices to dub and have the potential to reach a wider audience.


* ABC has renewed Abbott Elementary for a second season.

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah’ is heading back to its old home at 733 11th Avenue in New York and will bring back a live studio audience for the first time in two years.

Here's a quick rundown of all the new stuff premiering today on TV and streaming:

Caught In The Net Series Premiere (Investigation Discovery)
More Than Robots (Disney+)
Secrets Of The Chippendales Murders (A&E)
The Julia Child Challenge Series Premiere (Food)
Where Murder Lies Season Premiere (Investigation Discovery)

Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.


If you have any feedback, send it along to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.

Last modified on Monday, 14 March 2022 19:08