Warner Bros. Discovery Reviewing UK TV Commissioning Strategy In Light Of Tough Economic Situation

EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) is reviewing its TV commissioning and editorial strategy in the UK due to the tricky economic headwinds, Deadline understands.

The tough economic marketplace is causing all commercial UK networks to rethink and WBD is not immune, with a pause and reflect period incoming as the David Zaslav-helmed U.S. conglomerate grapples with the global recession, streaming strife and the writers strike.

UK TV commissioning and editorial strategy is under review, Deadline understands, and there could be changes to premiere dates and operational shifts in the coming weeks as WBD examines its UK pipeline in depth. Commissioning execs are understood to have been informing producers about the review over the past few days.

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We understand several new WBD commissions for 2023 and 2024 will be unveiled in the coming weeks but these were greenlit prior to the review.

In the UK, WBD commissioning for both linear channels and Discovery+ is overseen by Clare Laycock, Senior Vice President of Content, Networks and Streaming, along with a small team. Recent greenlights include paranormal investigate shows Spooked Ireland and the Yorkshire Exorcist, along with a new format, The Great Antiques Challenge. Discovery+, meanwhile, hosts multiple U.S. series in the UK alongside UK versions of shows such as 90 Day Fiancé UK.

General Slowdown

WBD declined to comment on the review. It comes with commissioning slowing down across UK broadcasting due to the economic strife combined with a predicted 10% to 20% drop in the ad market over the coming months.

The content bosses of Channel 4 and Paramount-owned Channel 5 addressed the slowdown last week, acknowledging they will have to be careful with budgets but falling short of saying there will be a commissioning freeze.

Several UK producers have, however, aired frustrations with Deadline that the networks are continuing to say they will commission while, privately, commissioning editors are telling them that they have very little money to spend. “It’s all in the language,” said one such producer.

Another compared the situation to the slowdown brought on by the pandemic, adding: “[The broadcasters] are really worried and are having to choose very carefully where to put their money.”

Channel 4 content boss Ian Katz said last week: “No one has a crystal ball. In many ways the wider economy is healthier than many people expected at the backend of last year but I’m very alive to the challenges the general slowdown is bringing across the board.”

The situation has led broadcasting union Bectu to declare an “emergency” in the freelance TV community due to the “unprecedented” lack of work brought on by the recession. That “emergency” will come into clearer focus later this week when Bectu issues the results of a union-wide survey.

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