The leadership of Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) is facing more bad news this month.
- On June 7, WBD fired CNN CEO Chris Licht following a profile by The Atlantic outlining his leadership failures in the newsroom.
- On June 16, WBD released The Flash to middling reviews and financial disaster, globally grossing $210.9 million in two weeks on a budget of $300 million
- On June 20, WBD announced massive layoffs for Turner Classic Movies, firing the majority of its staff and threatening the future of the service—drawing the acrimony of acclaimed filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.
- On June 22, WBD reportedly attempted to sell half of or $500 million worth of its music library and is launching a bidding war for rights that could include Casablanca’s As Time Goes By and various Batman themes.
Why It’s Important
Discovery CEO David Zaslav became the CEO of WBD in April 2022 amid its turbulent corporate merger with AT&T. He has since become highly controversial for his leadership decisions. His tenure at Warner Bros. Discovery has already been controversial prior to this month. Among his earliest decisions was to remove large volumes of content from HBO Max and cancel two nearly completed movies—Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt.
Last month, he received boos and chants from a crowd at Boston University after being invited to give the school’s commencement speech, with students castigating his handling of the ongoing writer’s strike and chanting to “pay your writers.”
Zaslav holds more than his personal reputation on the line—let alone the reputation and financial future of a 100-year-old Hollywood studio. The closure of Turner Classic Movies and the shuttering of the music library could result in severe damage to people’s access to historic film and music. Spielberg and Scorsese already confronted the executive in a June 21 phone call asking for accountability and calling for better preservation of his company’s assets.
“David Zaslav had a chance to come into the business and take the chair of Lew Wasserman. He could have gone in the room with creatives and studio heads—say ‘I’m a fan of the creative community’—and gotten it resolved,” a veteran Hollywood executive tells The Wrap. “It’s the most transparent drug-like addiction [to celebrity] that I’ve even seen. All the guys were rooting for him. Now the whisper around town is ‘What a buffoon.’”