Warner Bros Discovery’s CEE chief eyes unscripted expansion with docs taking centre stage

Jamie Cooke

Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) remains in the market for unscripted content across Central and Eastern Europe according to regional chief Jamie Cooke, who added that some appetite for scripted also remains.

Former Discovery exec Cooke was named WBD’s GM for CEE, Baltics, Middle East, Mediterranean and Turkey in June last year, taking on a vast remit that includes oversight of streaming but also the region’s pay TV infrastucture, which remains strong.

Cooke’s appointment came shortly before WBD pared back much of its scripted efforts last summer, with HBO Max culling its CEE scripted slate and disbanding the team led by Anthony Root.

Docs focus for WBD in CEE

WBD is now looking primarily at unscripted fare, Cooke told delegates at NEM Dubrovnik earlier this week, and said documentaries remained of particular interest.

“We have reduced the amount of scripted but we’re still very active in unscripted here. We’re still producing nine or ten docs a year and those are really pushing boundaries,” he said, pointing to recent LGBTQ+ show Naked.Loud.Proud from Poland as an example of the type of shows that he is looking for.

“I’m a great believer in those shows being a focus for us,” he said, with international content “coming over the top of it” in addition to regional shows that can travel. “But it’s not a bottomless pit,” he warned.

Cooke added that despite last year’s drama strategy shift, the company remains “open for business for good scripted ideas” but underlined that unscripted is now the key focus ahead of the roll-out of new streamer Max into the region.

He also admitted that pay TV remains a vital part of the mix across CEE, where cord-cutting is not being seen “in a meaningful way”.

“In this part of the world, linear is not dead. In fact, we see growth in pay TV and I also think that consumers are incredibly price sensitive,” Cooke said, with the CEE region “probably having space for three or maybe four streaming products.”

“One of those will definitely be local, one will probably be Netflix so then the question is who will be the third or the fourth one. We believe we are well positioned for that,” he said, with local content, US originals and regional shows that can travel “peppering” the offer.

“The sweet spot is the content that can travel. Our most recent example of that is Spy/Master, the Cold War era drama out of Romania but which is mainly English-language. That’s the holy grail for international players like us.”

“The question I have is about where do linear channels feature in a streaming environment,” he added. “It’s a question for the whole industry – where do the consumers want to see linear channels and how are we giving them access to.”

Read Next