6 votes

There’s a new media mogul tearing up Hollywood: ‘Zas is not particularly patient’


  1. cloud_loud
    Paywall, so here are some excerpts:

    Paywall, so here are some excerpts:

    Days into his role as CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, WBD -2.81%▼ David Zaslav gathered movie-studio executives and grilled them about a recent string of box-office flops, including "Cry Macho," a Clint Eastwood neo-Western.

    Warner Bros. executives conceded they had doubted the movie would turn a profit, people familiar with the meeting said. Why, Mr. Zaslav asked, was "Cry Macho" made if they had reservations? When they replied that Mr. Eastwood had given the studio many hits and never delivered a movie late or over budget, he answered: We don't owe anyone any favors.

    "It's not show friends, it's show business," he told them, quoting from the 1996 Tom Cruise movie "Jerry Maguire."

    Mr. Zaslav, who last month took over the company resulting from Discovery's merger with AT&T Inc.'s WarnerMedia, has given every indication he wants to be a talent-friendly mogul, schmoozing with industry personalities at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

    But the 62-year-old cable-industry veteran, a protégé of the late Jack Welch, longtime CEO of General Electric Co., has shown he isn't afraid to ruffle the industry's elite.

    He and his team have been scouring the company's books, making it clear spending needs to be reined in. They have abandoned projects they consider costly and unnecessary. That included pulling the plug on CNN+, barely a month after previous management launched the streaming service, and canceling a DC Comics superhero movie in development.

    Mr. Zaslav's team is undoing some of the previous regime's programming strategy, specifically plans to make original movies for HBO Max, people familiar with the matter said. The team scratched "The Wonder Twins," a live-action film based on the Warner Bros.-owned DC Comics superhero duo, because Mr. Zaslav deemed its estimated $75 million-plus budget too high and its return too limited for a made-for-streaming movie, the people said.

    Instead, Mr. Zaslav wants Warner Bros. to focus on increasing its number of theatrical releases to between 20 and 25 a year, a person familiar with his thinking said. Theatrical movies also tend to perform better on HBO Max than movies made exclusively for the service. Last year, Warner Bros. released 17 movies.

    Current and former Warner Bros. executives said drawing people back into theaters remains difficult for movies that aren't crowd-pleasers like "Batman" and "Spider-Man."
    At the same time, Mr. Zaslav is looking to make fresh "Harry Potter"-related content for HBO Max—Warner Bros. made all the wizarding franchise's movies—people familiar with his thinking said, and plans to meet with creator J.K. Rowling in the coming weeks to discuss the matter.

    Mr. Zaslav's workaholic habits are already leading to changes on the lot. He arranged for the commissary and the Starbucks on the Warner Bros. lot to open earlier in the morning, people familiar with the matter said. His ultimate goal is for the Starbucks to operate 24 hours a day.
    Some longtime Warner Bros. executives expressed frustration that Mr. Zaslav wasn't considering their views in strategy discussions and was flirting with potential replacements. His mentality, they said, can be summed up as: Can't you crank out just hits?

    Mr. Zaslav wants to use more statistics and research to determine what shows and movies the company should make, he said in a memo to employees on Monday. "As we build this new company," he wrote, "we need to be guided by data and insights to understand what's working and what's not."

    2 votes