"It's a legacy company of yesteryear that is trying to be a future company of tomorrow," Julia Alexander, director of strategy at Parrot Analytics, told Yahoo Finance Live (video above).
Alexander added that the media giant "is a three-prong company dealing with three different issues," which she describes as an embattled theatrical industry that's struggled to reach pre-pandemic levels, a declining linear television business that — coupled with a softening ad market — has lost revenue and subscribers, and an uncertain direct-to-consumer segment that's been hit with restructuring headwinds and profitability critiques.
WBD CEO David Zaslav indicated on the earnings call that there will be more changes to come, revealing that the company has increased its merger synergy target to $3.5 billion from $3 billion with an eye on doubling down on content and optionality.
"We're leaning in on [content]," Zaslav said on the call, explaining that WBD has spent more on content than ever before — addressing recent headlines of slashed production budgets, shut down projects, along with the removal of several titles from the HBO Max platform. He went on to say that "it's taken real courage" to restructure the company as one unit.
"We're going to see a lot more cuts coming both to the programming side and the labor side," Alexander surmised. So far, a reported 1,000-plus jobs have been cut .
It's a legacy company of yesteryear that is trying to be a future company of tomorrow...Julia Alexander, Parrot Analytics Director of Strategy on Warner Bros. Discovery
According to Parrot Analytics data, HBO Max has close to 20% of demand for films on all major streamers amid an impressive content library that includes recent hits like "The Batman" and "Elvis."
However, demand for the platform itself significantly decreased in the last quarter, moving from 11.5% in Q2 to 10.8% in Q3, suggesting that users could be looking elsewhere for at-home entertainment.
"If that demand continues to fall away from HBO Max, even with hit shows like 'House of the Dragon,' it really puts a curb on how how much that platform can grow," Alexander warned, stressing the importance of DTC growth for apprehensive investors.
What comes next after Q3 earnings miss
Despite "House of the Dragon's" record-breaking success, the company added just 2.8 million direct-to-consumer subscribers in the third quarter versus expectations of 3.27 million. Management has guided a long-term target of 130 million paying users by 2025.
The company's anticipated combination service, originally set to launch in summer 2023, will now debut in spring 2023. Executives stressed that the media giant will be "aggressively tackling" an ad-supported streaming market that now includes Netflix (NFLX) and will soon include Disney (DIS).
"We expect a healthy inflection with the launch of our combined service and expanded global footprint," Zaslav told investors. "We've been very hard at work. We can make the service available to consumers around the globe and get the business running on all cylinders."
Management hinted that price hikes are likely to come to the platform in 2023, as well.
"By 2023 HBO Max will not have raised its price since launch, which we think is an opportunity," noted JB Perrette, president of the company's streaming division.
Profitability continues to remain a top concern for investors as faith in streaming fundamentals wanes. WBD reiterated its 2022 adjusted EBITDA guidance between $9 billion and $9.5 billion, a decline from a previous forecast of $10 billion.
Revenue fell 11% to $9.82 billion while the company also reported a net loss of $2.3 billion after a $3.4 billion loss in the second quarter.
Alexandra is a Senior Entertainment and Media Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193 and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org