Warner Bros. Discovery stock sinks as ad revenue falls and Zaslav warns of ‘generational disruption’


Brazil – 2022/08/05: In this photo illustration, the Warner Bros. Discovery logo is displayed on a smartphone screen.

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Warner Bros. Discovery shares fell Wednesday after the company reported a decline in advertising revenue, a bigger-than-expected loss and lackluster streaming subscriber numbers.

Here’s what the company reported for the quarter ended Sept. 30, versus analysts’ estimates, according to Refinitiv:

  • Loss per share: 17 cents vs. 6 cents expected
  • Revenue: $9.98 billion vs. $9.98 billion expected

Warner Bros. Discovery reported a net loss of $417 million for the third quarter, or 17 cents per share, down from the $2.31 billion loss the company reported in the year-ago quarter, or 95 cents per share.

The company’s stock slide comes after a media rally late last week driven by Roku and Paramount earnings. Rival media giant Disney is set to report earnings after the closing bell Wednesday.

Warner Bros. Discovery warned of a number of obstacles heading into 2024, including sluggish ad revenue and ongoing impacts from the actors’ strike.

“This is a generational disruption we’re going through. Going through that with a streaming service that’s losing billions of dollars, it’s really difficult to go on offense,” CEO David Zaslav said during the earnings conference call. “It’s difficult to maneuver with interest rates the way they are at the challenges in the marketplace advertising.”

Ad revenue in the networks segment fell 12% compared to a year earlier, reflecting a decline in audiences for general entertainment and news programming, as well as soft ad trends in the U.S., the company said.

This quarter marked the first full quarter since Warner Bros. Discovery launched its flagship streaming service Max in May, which merged content from HBO Max and Discovery+.

The company reported 95.1 million global direct-to-consumer subscribers, a 700,000 decrease from the previous quarter, and less than the analyst projection of 95.4 million subscribers, according to StreetAccount.

The “modest sequential loss” was largely a result of an “extraordinarily light content slate,” CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said during the earnings call.

The streaming business did swing to a profit in the quarter, however.

Warner Bros. Discovery also made headway on paying off its debt load, with $2.4 billion of repayments made during the quarter, the company said. It still has $45.3 billion in gross debt.