The New York Times’ DealBook conference is going on, and Warner Discovery CEO, David Zaslav, took the stage to chat about the state of the industry and defend some of his most controversial decisions.
In a conversation with Andrew Ross Sorkin, Zaslav said, “We’re at a very hard time that requires hard decisions, and many of them are unpopular."
Zaslav has gotten a lot of heat this year, from the SAG and WGA strike to canceling movies like Batgirl, which he deemed not worth the fiscal investment to finish and release.
Despite those headlines, Zaslav explained he was doing it all as a calculated attempt to ensure the company for the future. He said, “If we were going to start today, what content do we need? What content is going to help us? How many people do we need? What should HBO look like? What should Warner Brothers look like?”
Of course, many filmmakers would argue that having their work come out is what is good for the studio, especially after certain stories like WB shelving the animated film, Coyote vs. Acme, which supposedly tested incredibly well with audiences.
But Zaslav had an answer for that, too.
Zaslav said, “If we produce a show, a $100-million movie ... 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. 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 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.”
These are just words, and I don't think any artist will take solace in knowing big business is courageous for not taking a chance on their work.
But you kind of have to hand it to Zaslav, he is committed to putting the business first.
We'll see how it pans out.