If the head that wears the crown is truly heavy, then David Zaslav’s head could probably anchor a cruise ship at this point.
When AT&T decided to remove their dead weight and sell off the burden that is WarnerMedia to the highest bidder, Discovery swooped in in April. Paying AT&T almost forty-three billion dollars and assuming another forty-three billion dollars in debt for control of the troubled studio.
In doing so Discovery inherited a myriad of problems. Projects that shouldn’t have been made were being greenlit. The CW, Warner’s television network has failed to become any more profitable than the WB network was, despite having an impressive library of fan favorite shows.
Then there is the DCEU. The multiverse that should be printing money and racing around the track on a horse that rivals Disney has failed to even make it out of the starting gate.
It is a comedy of errors on the Warner lot. Frankly, for a studio with such a rich history and storied legacy in Hollywood to have fallen this far is shameful and embarrassing. It should have never gotten this bad.
Somebody needed to come in and put an end to this madness. People need to be held accountable for their actions. The gravy train needs to come to an end. The word “no” needs to be said a lot more.
That’s why David Zaslav is the right man for the job at this point.
Nobody Likes To Be Told No
For a lot of people; especially in the art community, being told no can be a crushing personal defeat. This is a game of egos. So being denied what you want can lead to a lot of hurt feelings.
Unfortunately for the artists on the Warner Lot, no hasn’t been said enough times. If Warner doesn’t start putting a stop to these shenanigans, then there will not be a studio for them to work at.
David Zaslav is a numbers guy. It is his job to right the financial ship of a company that is taking on more water than it can bale out. Every decision that he makes is a decision that serves to keep the lights on and the cameras rolling.
When he cancelled “Batgirl” there were a lot of accusations being thrown out there. The twitterverse threw all of their usual buzzwords around. Calling Zaslav all sorts of “phobes” and “ists” because he decided to shelf a movie with a trailer that made it look like a Youtube fan film.
Zaslav is not a phobe or an ist. In reality he probably had an accountant in his office going over the projections and numbers. It made more financial sense to scrap “Batgirl” and take a tax write-off than it did to release it and put the DCEU even further behind Disney. It had nothing to do with anything nefarious.
However I will say that while almost every decision made by Zaslav has been a sound one from a financial standpoint, the execution of these decisions hasn’t always been respectable.
Animation is time consuming, costly, and more of a gamble than live action. It makes all of the sense in the world for the animation division to be the first unit to experience budget cuts,
That being said, there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. The way the animators have been treated has been less than professional. This will be a problem later on down the road when Warner is solvent and looking for animators to rejoin them.
Animators are typically an emotional lot that stand in solidarity with each other. They will remember what Warner did to animators like Owen Dennis and how “Infinity Train” was purged from HBO MAX as if it never happened.
“Infinity Train” was not exactly a money maker for the studio, but Dennis is a respected animator and he deserved a meeting and an explanation as to why the decision was made. He got neither.
Why Some Projects Were Kept
One of the main arguments against David Zaslav is that he is playing favoritism with certain properties.
Some fans were outraged that “The Flash” still has the green light and that “Black Adam” is still getting its release despite having the same poor test results as Batgirl.
This is how you know that identity politics has come into the mix with this saga. Logically anybody could point out that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has built a billion dollar empire simply by raising his eyebrow . The man generates money in his sleep. The Flash has actually tested well, and is essential to the future of the DCEU; assuming that there is one.
“Batgirl” just simply doesn’t have the clout to justify its reason to keep the greenlight in a time of financial dire straits.
David Zaslav Is Not Bob Chapek
A lot of David Zaslav’s naysayers have been painting a picture that has him come off as a miser. People have taken to comparing Zaslav to Bob Chapek; the CEO of Disney. The two men are worlds apart.
Zaslav is a cleaner. He was called in to do a job that ensures the preservation of a legendary studio that is on the brink of collapse. He has to hack and slash the budget that is anchoring Warner to the abyss, and allow it to rise back up and reclaim its rightful place in Hollywood.
Bob Chapek doesn’t need to hack and slash his budget. Disney is nowhere near anything even resembling financial jeopardy. He is mandating budget cuts to line the pockets of shareholders and executives at the expense of the consumer.
In current times, a man like David Zaslav simply can’t win. If he lets thing roll the way they’ve been rolling, the studio will collapse and he becomes known as the final nail in the Warner Studio’s coffin.
If he keeps doing what he’s doing, he becomes known as a butcher. A man who ripped apart an entire lot and destroyed projects just to keep the lights on.
In the long run, that will not be a bad analogy. People need butchers in order to eat. In twenty years, when Warner Brothers is back to being a powerhouse and people are clocking in without fear of losing their jobs the next day, they will have David Zaslav to thank.
History treats its saviors kindly.
What do you think, GNN faithful? Will David Zaslav go down in history as the man who saved a legendary studio? Or will he go down as a tyrant who stifled growth? Sound off in the comments!
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Thank you for reading. When I am not writing I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my two year old daughter Frankie, my Hound Marbles, and my Ferret Ms. Farrah Pawcett.
November 10, 2022 at 11:00 am
I think a Zaslav is exactly what most of these Hollywood companies need.
December 16, 2022 at 4:01 am
If cuts in further production need to be made to stay within current means, that makes sense to me, but unceremoniously disappearing works of art (even if they aren’t all great – I mean, it’s a matter of taste) – that’s execrable. Honestly the problem is that culturally important stories are tied to corporations under our current system, and what matters is if that system can produce good art. Zaslav apparently has no interest in that, which just illustrates why artistic enterprises shouldn’t be run to make quarterly profits.