Warner Bros. Discovery Picks Sports Chief to Navigate Streaming Era
Warner Bros. Discovery, the media giant created by the fusion of the owners of HBO and “90 Day Fiancé,” said Thursday that it had picked an executive to manage its billions of dollars of sports rights, one of the cornerstones of the company. The company now has the rights to games from the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League.
The executive, Luis Silberwasser, will be responsible for ushering the company’s sports programming — which includes “Inside the NBA,” the NCAA March Madness men’s basketball tournament and playoff baseball — further into the streaming era.
Mr. Silberwasser has been one of the most senior executives at Univision, which this year closed a $4.8 billion deal with Mexican media giant Televisa to create a Spanish-language media colossus. He is president of TelevisaUnivision Inc. U.S. Networks Group, reporting to Wade Davis, Univision’s chief executive.
Mr. Silberwasser has a longstanding relationship with David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery, who oversaw Discovery before it merged with WarnerMedia this year. Mr. Silberwasser was an executive vice president at Discovery, responsible for content at Discovery Networks International, during a tenure at the company that ran more than a decade. His title will be chairman and chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports.
Mr. Silberwasser, who is Latino, is one of a few executives of color on Mr. Zaslav’s management team. He joins Savalle Sims, the company’s general counsel, and Channing Dungey, the chairman of Warner Brothers Television Group, who are Black. Warner Bros. Discovery has taken steps to diversify its board of directors, and Mr. Silberwasser’s appointment makes him one of the most powerful Latino executives in the U.S. media industry.
Mr. Silberwasser will need to keep programming costs under control while the price of live sports rights soars. Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav has told Wall Street the company will be disciplined about its spending on content, but he also wants the company to continue to be a major player in the sports-media arena. Those two goals could be at odds.
One prominent example: The N.B.A. Warner Bros. Discovery pays an average of about $1.2 billion per year for the rights to show N.B.A. games nationally, part of a nine-year agreement signed in 2014. That agreement is up after the 2024-25 season, and the N.B.A. is expecting its fee to sharply increase during the next round of negotiations given the rising popularity of the N.B.A. globally, according to a person familiar with the agreement.
There is little doubt Warner Bros. Discovery will have to pay more to continue showing the N.B.A., which is a top draw for its cable channel TNT and sports website Bleacher Report. The N.F.L. nearly doubled its media revenue from rights agreements signed last year, and the N.H.L., Southeastern Conference and other sports leagues have seen huge increases in recently completed deals.
Mr. Silberwasser will be responsible for managing Warner Bros. Discovery’s U.S. sports portfolio and setting the company’s global sports strategy. The company’s international sports portfolio, including the Olympics, will be managed by Andrew Georgiou, the president and managing director of WBD Sports Europe. Lenny Daniels, the president of Turner Sports, and Patrick Crumb, the president of regional sports networks, will report to Mr. Silberwasser.