For decades, WarnerMedia and Discovery had largely co-existed independently. They have lived in separate universes with virtually no business interactions, as unscripted television is their main area of overlap. The Discovery networks work primarily with independent producers and not studios like Warner Bros TV, which has only produced a handful of reality shows for Discovery nets via its Shed subsidiary
However, there is a close working relationship which has flown largely under the radar and creates instant synergy post-merger — that between Warner Bros. TV and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network on the scripted side. Over the last five years, WBTV has become OWN’s de-facto scripted studio, producing virtually all of its original scripted series, from Queen Sugar and David Makes Man to All Rise.
After the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger is complete, OWN and WBTV will become vertically integrated, with HBO Max as OWN’s corporate sibling streamer. According to sources, WBTV is looking to further expand their business with OWN under the new ownership framework, and there are plans to have OWN/Oprah Winfrey’s presence on HBO Max, possibly with its branded vertical. (We hear there are similar plans in the works to feature content and personalities from another Discovery co-venture, Magnolia Network, led by Chip and Joanna Ganes, on HBO Max.)
The relationship between OWN and Warner Bros. TV began in February 2015 when the network announced its first order to a non-Tyler Perry scripted series, Ava DuVernay’s drama Queen Sugar, from WBTV where DuVernay has been under a deal.
Queen Sugar, headed into its seventh and final season, became one of OWN’s biggest hits and was followed by a slew of other WBTV scripted series, including David Makes Man, Love Is__, Delilah, DuVernay’s Cherish the Day, and The Kings of Napa.
When WBTV’s drama series All Rise was canceled by CBS after two seasons last May, it was OWN that stepped in to save it, picking up the show for a third season. It was done in a joined deal with HBO Max and Hulu, which share the legal drama’s streaming rights.
All Rise and David Makes Man are currently on HBO Max. (Queen Sugar has a streaming deal with Hulu that pre-dates the launch of the WarnerMedia streamer.)
An OWN-branded hub on HBO Max would create a destination on the streamer that could help expand its reach and popularity among Black viewers, which is an important component in any platform’s growth strategy.
On the linear side, OWN has been overseen by Kathleen Finch since Discovery boosted its stake in the network to 95% in 2020. In her role as Chairman and Chief Content Officer, US Networks Group, a new, consolidated organization comprising Warner Bros. Discovery’s more than 40 US Networks, which was unveiled earlier today, she is expected to continue doing that.
It is worth noting that OWN, the only Discovery network to carry scripted programming, is staying under Finch, while the fully-unscripted Magnolia Network is moving under HBO oversight post-merger.
Winfrey and her Harpo Productions are minority investors in OWN, which swung into profitability a few years ago after early struggles. Winfrey, who has a close relationship with incoming Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, has signed on as CEO and provider of exclusive programming through 2025.
Dade Hayes contributed to this story.
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.