Remember when no one but insiders knew who David Zaslav was? Since taking over Warner Bros. Discovery in 2021, he’s become a cartoon villain, distinguished himself with one controversial, one could say dunderheaded decision after another. Perhaps his most notorious move has been cancelling completed or near-completed movies for tax purposes. One argue doing that alienates talent, who are right to fear their hard work could be unceremoniously deleted. Zaslav, though, thinks what he did was brave.
Per IndieWire, Zaslav spoke at New York Times DealBook Summit Wednesday, an event that also featured fellow dastardly media king Elon Musk, who told advertisers fleeing over anti-Semitism to “go f*ck yourself.” Anyway, Zaslav addressed disappearing Batgirl, the Scoob! sequel, and, recently, Coyote vs. Acme (though he allowed the latter, at least, to find a new home). Many in the industry saw this as a disturbing trend, but he argued it helped save the company, even if it didn’t exactly make them money.
“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,” Zaslav said. “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 [the] Warner Bros. 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.”
Warner Bros. Discovery has a heaping amount of debt, and by doing things like cancelling movies that were about ready to be released, he’s managed to reduced that by $12 billion. Alas, they still have $45.3 billion to go, so who knows what else Zaslav will destroy to save the company. Whatever he does, please don’t deep six more Looney Tunes.