The top brass at Warner Bros Discovery held a company-wide town hall Wednesday over Zoom in which they laid out the current state of the company and the industry, acknowledging the hard times amid a slew of cost-cutting moves and layoffs and emphatically addressing merger rumors with CEO David Zaslav exclaiming, “We are not for sale, absolutely, not for sale.”
This is according to sources on the Zoom. The CEO didn’t specifically address which company he was referring to, but the assumption by many was that he was referring to Comcast. There was no mention of pending layoffs.
“We have the strongest hand in the industry,” Zaslav told employees, according to sources. “We have everything we need to be successful to be the biggest entertainment media company in the world.”
Sources said the meeting, which lasted about 75 minutes and stretched across all of WBD’s workforce, was led by Zaslav, who introduced division heads HBO & HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys, Warner Bros Television Group chair Channing Dungey and Warner Bros Motion Picture Group toppers Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy.
The meeting was an instrumental one for Zaslav, indicative of his philosophy when it comes to breaking down silos in the Warner Bros Discovery empire. This is something that didn’t occur during the previous WarnerMedia regime, specifically when it came to all divisions working together to ride herd on J.J. Abrams’ half-billion-dollar development deal cohesively.
Zaslav indicated how the industry was going through a tough time and emphasized that many should have patience.
De Luca and Abdy talked about the confidence of the feature slate, while Zaslav noted that the plan is to release 15-20 theatrical titles a year spanning all genres.
On the TV side, Dungey showed clips and said there’s a commitment to be the top supplier for HBO Max. The key to success in Dungey’s division is an independent mindset and continuing to work with third parties that deliver great content.
Bloys discussed the Netflix subscriber loss this year and how that forced everyone in the streaming industry to assess how money should be made. Streaming just hasn’t been as robust as it was six months ago. That seismic event has prompted WBD execs to make hard decisions to take content off the HBO Max platform. Note, this wasn’t a willy-nilly move by HBO suits, but just a means to respond to the will of consumers and what they’re watching. The plan is to reinvest in those shows that people are watching or new ones which they’d be prime to watch. The removal of content on HBO Max in way indicated that there’s a refinement in content strategy.
Bloys also showed clips from Season 2 of The White Lotus and The Last of Us, expressing his excitement for both.
On the lighter side, Zaslav mentioned toward the end of the town hall that he’ll give a vest to everyone — he loves his Warner Bros. Discovery vests — which created a pandemonium in the chat with people asking how they could get one.
WBD has been in restructure mode since Discovery’s $43 billion acquisition of WarnerMedia closed in April, when the new company began working toward achieving at least $3 billion in cost savings. That is coming via workforce reductions across all divisions, as well as via the combining of operations, including most significantly the eventual merging of HBO Max and Discovery+.
Most recently, about 30% of the company’s ad-sales staff was laid off, with more expected over the coming weeks. WBD has a combined workforce of about 40,000.
CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said this month that the company already as achieved $2 billion-$3 billion of actual cost savings, with the rest due in 2023.
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