WarnerMedia shifts content spending away from cable, toward streaming

HBO Max
Warner also made more than double the number of commissions in the fourth quarter of 2019 (63 titles) as it did in the fourth quarter of 2018 (29 titles). (WarnerMedia)

WarnerMedia has dramatically shifted its balance for commissioning content away from its cable networks and toward its streaming services like HBO Max.

According to Ampere Analysis, just over one quarter of WarnerMedia’s commissioning activity was from its cable networks, down from more than 90% in the fourth quarter of 2018. At the same time, the company’s streaming has grown from 7% of commissions in the fourth quarter of 2018 to 73% in the fourth quarter of 2019.

“Warner’s pivot towards an increasingly HBO Max-first approach to commissioning is not only apparent in the number of new projects in development, but also in the types of content being commissioned. Warner’s cable properties commissioned only four Sci-Fi & Fantasy titles in 2019, all at HBO, while its streaming properties greenlit 12. This is the clearest sign yet that the home of the juggernaut ‘Game of Thrones’ will in the future play second fiddle to HBO Max when it comes to some of Warner’s highest-profile genre commissions,” said Fred Black, analyst at Ampere Analysis, in a statement.

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According to Ampere, Warner’s cable properties were a top five U.S. cable network commissioner in each quarter of 2019. Through the course of the year, though, the number of cable commissions declined as activity was ramped up at HBO Max. Cable commissions were down 37% in the fourth quarter.

Overall, Warner is increasing investment in new content. Commissioning activity for Warner’s streaming channels (HBO Max and DC Universe) matched its cable networks for the first time in August 2019. Warner also made more than double the number of commissions in the fourth quarter of 2019 (63 titles) as it did in the fourth quarter of 2018 (29 titles).

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