Leah Hooper Rosa, who leads WBD’s streaming business in EMEA, is tasked not only with operations and growth for existing streaming services HBO Max and discovery+, but also planning for the roll out of Max from early 2024. She spoke to Adrian Pennington.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s European Head of Streaming Leah Hooper Rosa enjoys solving jigsaw puzzles which is lucky because she has a lot of pieces to fit together as the company prepares to launch streaming platform Max in Europe in 2024.


Leah Hooper Rosa, Warner Bros. Discovery

“I love solving complex problems and at a time when the industry is experiencing a lot of change, figuring out how we can move ahead in an orderly fashion with speed is what excites me,” she said.

WBD was formed on 11 April 2022 with Max, combining HBO Max with elements from discovery+, launched in the US a year later. Having played a leadership role in the launches of discovery+ in regions including India, Europe, and the U.S as SVP Global DTC Strategy at Discovery, Hooper Rosa was a natural to lead the same effort for a unified product in EMEA.

While the existing HBO Max team were midway through a “very aggressive international rollout” and Discovery had an “international expansion path” for discovery+ the merger into one organisation behind one enhanced product has been a tough but rewarding exercise.

“It felt like a mammoth task but the shared learning carried the team across the line,” she said.

“Particularly in streaming we’ve been doing our own transformation amongst the wider WBD transformation. We had one team experienced in rapid market expansion and the other with a lot of history in terms of merging platforms. Those two knowledge sets coming together gave us the confidence to take on such an aggressive timetable in launching Max.”

The focus for launch was achieving reliability. She said, “With two apps coming together we needed a reliable platform. What annoys people is when they go to watch a piece of content and it doesn’t work.”

Consumer satisfaction with Max app has fed back into ratings which are currently at an all-time high on both iOS and Android “way above and beyond what HBO Max and Discovery+ achieved.”

Now Hooper Rosa is charged with achieving the same success with Max as it rolls out across 22 existing EMEA markets.

She does this by driving the EMEA division’s “cross functional leadership” which means “bringing our global disciplines of marketing, content and product together to make sure we have one cohesive go-to-market strategy for Europe.

“A lot of my role is split between running the platforms we have today and making sure we deliver against our KPIs and financial targets. I am laser focussed on P&L and our subscriber targets and also making sure we are planning for Max launch.”

Across EMEA the company has different groups, representing the Nordics or Iberia for example, and Hooper Rosa’s role is to work out what makes sense for WBD in that market. What is the digital advertising strategy? What is the right commercial structure with partners? How does product packaging work in terms of local market context?

“There is no one size fits all strategy. In some markets, like Poland, we have a really extensive broadcast network business and in other like the Netherlands we have more of a traditional payTV business. So, the consumer and partner expectation around content and how people are used to engaging with us is different.”

Her starting point for any market launch is to identify the absolute ‘must haves’. “We spend a lot of time working that through linked to our commercialisation strategy, the local regulatory framework and consumer behaviour in the region. We spend a lot of time understanding what is critical and what is a nice to have.

“This process is not unusual but it’s really key to us that everybody understands what the minimal viable product (MVP) is for launch. Everything after that is driven by improvements in the core KPIs whether that’s ‘watch time’ or ‘reach’ or our ability to do things more efficiently to drive monetisation.”

Hooper Rosa’s role involves working with counterparts in APAC, Latam and North America to work out what is global versus what is regional. “I am all for making sure our product is compliant and relevant for the individual market but it’s also about threading the fine line between local requirements and global efficiency. What is the global core competency we need and what is unique to a region?”

She added, “Working out how to take Max globally at the most efficient scale has been the most exciting puzzle.”

In the US, WBD is about to launch CNN Max into its super-streamer Max service allowing subscribers access to 24/7 programming from the global news brand. WBD CEO David Zaslav recently called news and sports “differentiators” for SVOD platforms. 

Hooper Rosa agreed: “News drives a high level of engagement and especially drive up the frequency of app visits. HBO Max in the U.S. has a rich legacy of Sunday night TV. The challenge for us to make every night a Sunday. The frequency of people coming to the service along with the amount of time they spend on the service are the two core metrics that keep down churn.”

Into that equation, WBD will offer different pricing levels. “There is massive growth of FAST in the US, which is essentially AVOD, but we’ve not seen that level of growth in Europe to date. We are however seeing more FAST services in combination with ad supported premium services.”

Hooper Rosa pointed to ad supported subscription services with light ad loads as having growth potential in Europe. She characterises ad-light as being in the order of 4-6 minutes of ads per hour rather than the 12-16 minutes per hour for typical FAST channels.

“We have launched ad light across major markets on discovery+. It’s a really interesting business model for select markets. I think there will be an increase in ad light propositions across Europe (Disney+ ad-supported service lands in November) and with that we hope to see an increase in the number of SVODs that households are taking. The European average is still under three SVODs per household versus five in the U.S. We hope that with the introduction of more lower priced ad services we get less switching behaviour between services and customers begin taking a broader sweep of streaming choices.”

Leah Hooper Rosa explains all about Pricing, Packaging & Localisation: Differentiating your streaming service in a crowded market in the IBC2023 Conference on 15 September, 12:15 - 13:00

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