There is a very high chance David Zaslav, the fresh CEO of Warner Bros Discovery, is one of the most criticised men in Hollywood right now. This has been a tumultuous week for WB after they were met with a flood of criticism for cancelling Batgirl and Scoob!: Holiday Haunt.
On August 4, Zaslav addressed the controversy during the company’s earnings call with investors. As reported before, Zaslav is keen on focusing titles premiering in cinemas rather than on WB’s premium streaming platform HBO Max.
Zaslav confirmed the long-rumoured merging of HBO Max and Discovery+. An image from the presentation has gone viral in which Zaslav seemingly brands HBO as “male skew” and “home of fandom” whereas Discovery+ is “female skew”, “unscripted” and “home of genredoms.” I have no clue what genredom means, so am unable to elaborate on that, but I can’t imagine it’s a compliment, given the context.
Warner Bros Discovery highlight what they think the differences are between HBO Max and Discovery+ pic.twitter.com/sKkSp8Dc6i
— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) August 4, 2022
Several outlets have reported this week that merging the two streaming services would come with huge layoffs, with some predicting that the company could let go of up to 70% of HBO Max’s workforce. Netflix is currently battling the same issue and has had to let hundreds of employees go in recent months.
“We’re not going to launch a movie to make a quarter and we’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it” Zaslav said when directly asked about Batgirl getting cancelled. Moving away from HBO Max and cancelling two nearly completed films is a harsh strategy from Zaslav, who is clearly keen on cashing in on the theatrical success of Top Gun: Maverick. It’s also not a good look from a PR standpoint.
As reported here by Bloomberg, Zaslav has previously said diversity is not his top priority. And no one wants tokenism, but axing a film that had positive buzz around it, with a Latina lead and two Muslim directors in a time where people are desperate for better representation is something of a bold move. Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah posted a statement on Instagram, speaking of their disappointment over the move.
Add into the mix the fact that Zaslav namechecked The Flash as a film he’s excited for in WB’s future. The Flash has been standing on uncertain ground after the legal troubles of Ezra Miller, but it seems that WB and Zaslav are going full-steam ahead with Andy Muchietti’s film.
Zaslav also openly admitted he’s looking to follow in Kevin Feige’s footsteps. Zaslav explained the company will be focusing on their superhero titles and he’s putting together a team to come up with a 10-year plan focusing solely on their DC Universe, similar to what Feige is doing with Marvel.
As Variety notes, Zaslav strongly implied Batgirl wasn’t up to his standards. He did however mention the aforementioned The Flash, Black Adam and Shazam! Fury of the Gods, saying the company “think they’re terrific, and we think we can make them even better.”
While it’s easy to see why Zaslav is adopting such an aggressive approach, it seems to be a wildly unpopular strategy. How this affects the upcoming DC films and Warner Bros Discovery as a whole, remains to be seen.