Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav On Restructuring, Pay, Strike – Upnewsdaily

Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav On Restructuring, Pay, Strike – Upnewsdaily

“We’re at a very hard time that requires hard decisions, and many of them are unpopular,” said Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav reviewing the trajectory of a company that has slashed staff and shelved content in an landscape that’s completely transformed from when the Discovery-Warner Media merger was announced in 2021.

“We said no sacred cows,” he told Andrew Ross Sorkin during a Q&A at the New York Times’ DealBook conference.

“If we were going to start today, what content do we need? What content is going to help us? How many people do we need? What should HBO look like? What should Warner Brothers look like?”

He called WBD’s first big layoffs “brutal” but “these are companies that have never really been restructured for the future. And so we really decided that we have to have courage, we’ve got to figure it out.”

On the content side, the company recently raised hackles in the creative community by first shelving a finished Coyote Vs. Acme before allowing others to screen it for a potential sale. It canceled Batgirl last year, raising the first big ruckus.

Sorkin about accounting, which allows company’s to take write downs. “The accounting piece is really a misnomer,” Zaslav said. “If we produce a show, a $100-million movie…We’ve spent the $100 million dollars and if we don’t release it. It’s gone. We don’t have any real benefit from it. The question is, should we take certain of these movies and open them in the theater and spend another $30 or $40 million to promote them? And Warner Brothers team and HBO made a number of decisions. They were hard. But when I look at the health of our company today, we needed to make those decisions. And it took real courage.”

On the writers and actors strikes, the chief executive said he fought to end. But he sidestepped a question about his high compensation, which was a rallying cry on the picket lines.

“The writers, the actors, were saying, ‘look at this guy, he’s getting paid tens of millions of dollars a year and we’re over here.’ How do you deal with that personally? And how do you think about that?” asked Sorkin.

“My focus was we need to settle this strike. This is really hurting people. Every day that we were on strike, that people weren’t working was a bad day,” said Zaslav.

“I did fight, and Bob Iger. There was a bunch of us” trying to end it, he said.

Asked about his quote in a recent NYT story that writers were basically “right about almost everything,” he indicated that applied in large part to actors too. “I believe what I said. When I spoke to Fran and Duncan before, I said, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying,” referring to SAG-AFTRA’s president and executive director.  

More to come…

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