Warner Bros Discovery: Arjun Nohwar at the controls to advance the digital expansion plan?

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In a major leadership change announcement at Warner Bros. Discovery yesterday, Arjun Nohwar was named Managing Director of India. Megha Tata, Managing Director, South Asia, Discovery Communications India, has resigned.

Nohwar’s appointment as GM India indicates that Warner Bros Discovery’ priority in India is likely to be digital. In fact, Nohwar is also responsible for launching HBO Max in India, and Clement Schwebig, President and CEO of Warner Bros Discovery, mentioned that Nohwar’s digital experience will help prepare the company for its next phase of growth.

Industry watchers believe that Warner Bros. Discovery’s announcement of management change in India has clearly highlighted their plan for digital expansion in India, which is the logical next step for them.

In India, the combined business will operate in the kids, infotainment and lifestyle genres, with 17 channels and two streaming platforms. With Cartoon Network, Pogo and Discovery Kids, the consolidated company will have a strong presence in the children’s space. This will be a big boost for the genre because despite being the fourth most popular category in terms of audience, the youth section suffers from under-indexing.

“Given the current state of broadcasting, it may not be possible for them to develop a big TV network in India. Genres like infotainment and lifestyle are already struggling due to from NTO,” an industry watcher noted on condition of anonymity. As a result, he noted, a digital focus will be on the agenda. “With digital advertising and subscriptions on the rise, it’s best to focus on digital,” he said.

The activity also includes theatrical distribution of Warner Bros. titles. Pictures, the syndication of Warner Bros. TV, HBO and Max Originals, Warner Bros. Discovery Global Brands & Experiences and WB Games.

According to another industry expert, HBO is known worldwide for its digital content, and it’s possible that Nohwar was hired because he wants to improve his digital offering.

Speaking on the leadership changes, he said that since AT&T has a larger stake in the merger, the Warner Group will have a stronger leadership position. Last year, AT&T announced a $43 billion deal to merge WarnerMedia with Discovery. AT&T, which had acquired Time Warner for 85 billion dollars, will form a new media company with Discovery in which it will hold 71% of the capital, the latter holding the remaining 29%.

“Warner’s overall focus is on digital and these changes have been expected since the two companies announced their merger. Also, Discovery’s editorial policies are very different from what Warner does,” said a senior broadcast executive.

He further added that HBO and Warner both have an extensive library of content and with this merged entity, they are likely to take content beyond television. “Leadership is aligned with the overall vision.”

Discovery Communications India’s net operating income increased by 10.32% to Rs 928.8 crore for the year ended March 31, 2021 from Rs 841.9 crore for the prior year. Total expenditure for the financial year increased by 10% to Rs 866 crore from Rs 787.3 crore. Net profit remained stable at Rs 45.9 crore from Rs 45.8 crore.

Meanwhile, Time Warner-owned WarnerMedia India (formerly Turner International India) revenue for the year ended March 31 fell 14.46% to Rs 376.75 crore from Rs 440.48 crore in the previous year. Advertising revenue fell by 35.48% to Rs 95.8 crore from Rs 148.5 crore. Subscription revenue fell slightly by 3.14% to Rs 258.5 crore from Rs 266.9 crore. The company earned Rs 16.6 crore from promotional license fees, down 12.3% from Rs 14.78 crore a year ago.

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