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Warner Bros. Discovery Cutbacks Took ‘Courage,’ Talks Strikes

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Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav weighed in on the twin SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes and defended the company’s budget cuts — including shelving completed films “Batgirl” and “Coyote vs. Acme” — as requiring “courage” to right-size its balance sheet.

Zaslav, speaking Wednesday at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit, reiterated to moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin that with respect to the strikes, he was focused on achieving a resolution as soon as possible.

“I think the idea of going on strike was bad for all of us,” he said. “My focus was on, we need to settle the strike, every day that we were on strike and people weren’t working was a bad day for us.”

Zaslav recently was quoted in a New York Times piece as saying the WGA was “right about almost everything.” Asked about that at the DealBook event, the CEO stuck by his previous comment and said he told SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and the union’s chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, that “I agree with a lot of what you are saying.”

Zaslav said WBD’s spending cuts, including mass layoffs and billions in content write-offs, were required to improve the media conglomerate’s financial health. For the full-year 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery took a $2.9 billion charge of content restructuring impairments and write-offs. “We decided that we had to have courage,” he said.

Elaborating on WBD’s decisions to write-off certain films and TV series, he said that hypothetically, if the company has already spent $100 million producing a film, “The question is, should we take certain of these movies and open them in the theater and spend another $30 [million] or $40 million to promote them?” The Warner Bros. Entertainment and HBO teams made a number of “hard” decisions, Zaslav continued, but that “when I look at the health of our company today, we needed to make those decisions. And it took real courage.”

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