Tue. Jul 5th, 2022

Discovery’s chief executive David Zaslav has taken the first major step to overhaul his newly acquired media company by installing his longtime lieutenant to run the streaming businesses of Warner-Discovery, as he replaces nearly all of Warner’s senior management with his own team.

JB Perrette, who has led Discovery’s international and streaming businesses, is set to take on one of the biggest jobs in entertainment: running the streaming businesses of the combined Warner-Discovery, according to people familiar with the matter.

With the merger of Warner and Discovery set to close as early as Friday, Zaslav has made his first big stamp on WarnerMedia, overhauling the top ranks and promoting his trusted colleagues. Nine senior executives from Warner, including its chief executive Jason Kilar, announced their exit from the company this week.

Zaslav last year engineered a transformative deal that catapulted him to one of the most powerful jobs in Hollywood, merging Discovery with the much larger WarnerMedia and securing his position as the chief executive of the combined group.

Discovery could announce its new leadership team as soon as Thursday. Bloomberg first reported on Perrette’s promotion.

This is the second restructuring for Warner in recent years, after telecoms group AT&T paid $ 85bn in 2019 to acquire the company and launch itself into Hollywood, only to retreat and sell the company three years later.

Zaslav wants to eliminate management layers so that senior executives report directly to him, said a person familiar with his thinking. “He wants to be as close to the content as possible,” the person said.

Perrette is tasked with combining the merged businesses into a unified streaming service to compete with Netflix and Disney. Warner owns some of the most prized assets in Hollywood, including HBO, Warner Bros. and CNN, while Discovery has focused on reality programming spanning nature, home improvement and dating shows.

Gunnar Wiedenfels, Discovery’s chief financial officer, told investors in March that he would be “really, really clearly focused on cost” reduction after the deal closes. He is seeking to cut $ 3bn by eliminating overlaps in technology, property and other corporate costs. Combining advertising and marketing departments will also generate savings, he said.

“There’s going to be a lot of restructuring, a lot of heavy lifting to be done, which is not going to be comfortable for anybody there but it has to be done,” said Jessica Reif Ehrlich, an analyst at Bank of America.

“The asset mix is ​​incredible,” she added. “These have been under-managed assets not just under AT&T, which we all knew would not be the best steward, but the old Time Warner had been dressed up for a sale before even that.”

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