Amid WarnerMedia-Discovery merger and streaming wars, ‘great storytelling always wins’

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Angie Perrin

This week, AT&T announced that it plans to spin off WarnerMedia, which it bought five years ago, and merge it with Discovery, which owns HGTV, TLC, and Animal Planet. 

This might lead to new programming and a restructuring of current content libraries. That’s according to Alejandro Rojas, director of applied analytics at Parrot Analytics, a data company that tracks social media and TV viewership. 

“It's all about combining forces, so they actually build a strong distribution platform [where] people can access this amazing library that they have,” he tells KCRW. “These are companies that have grown, building an immense amount of content.”

Part of the motivation: attracting new and different subscribers via new content bundles. 

“If you look at Discovery, all the content that they have, it's more on the documentary side, the reality side. Those shows are great to keep people around, so people stick with a service. So when you combine the two, basically it could be like a winning combination, because you're able to attract subscribers, and then you're able to keep them for like a long period.”

What viewers want and how to keep them

Rojas says that during the pandemic, people “finished Netflix in a way,” so they explored other types of content, including home improvement and international shows.

Disney+ in particular has held onto viewers through franchise series — shows based on the Marvel universe and Star Wars. 

“Whenever you have a new release, then that makes people watch other shows related to the universe. … Once you get the audience's attention, then basically they want more of what they like. So if you're able to deliver that and deliver an experience, seamlessly moving from one title to another, then again, that's really the name of the game, right?”

Quality storytelling is king

Rojas argues the merger could threaten other major subscription services because it will add another competitor to the already inflated field of platforms. But at the end of the day, he says the quality of programming will affect who succeeds.  

“Everybody's trying to get people's attention, and everybody's trying to become that first destination. To kind of figure out who's gonna win, I mean, I think probably there's room for everybody. … But at the end of the day … if you create good content, people are gonna flock to that. Great storytelling always wins.”