After Warner Bros. and Discovery merged last year, the newly installed CEO set out to find $3.5 billion dollars in savings, which took the form of many TV shows being canceled, some of which had not aired, as well the decision to pull shows from HBO Max in order to save on residuals.
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Zaslav’s choices were met with widespread disapproval on social media and in opinion pieces but he didn’t seem too concerned with the backlash, and announced plans to rebrand HBO Max as a new streaming service called Max.
But in the wake of the ongoing strike by the Writers Guild of America, Zaslav is facing a new round of criticism. The WGA is striking over concerns about the changing nature of writer’s residuals in the streaming era, and how artificial intelligence will be used by film and television studios, amongst other issues.
In an interview with CNN a day after the strike began, Adam Conover, a writer and host of the comedy show “Adam Ruins Everything,” pushed back against criticism that in the streaming era, wherein movie tickets and DVD sales have gone down, studios don’t have the resources they once had.
“David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent company of the network I’m talking to you on right now, was paid $250 million last year, a quarter of a billion dollars,” Conover said.
“That’s about the same level as what 10,000 writers are asking him to pay all of us collectively, alright. So I would say if you’re being paid $250 million — these companies are making enormous amounts of money. Their profits are going up. It’s ridiculous for them to plead poverty.”
Zaslav Booed At Commencement Speech
It would seem that Zaslav’s public image issues are ongoing; over the weekend he was booed while giving a commencement speech at Boston University, where he is an alum.
During his speech, Zaslav stressed themes of hard work, determination and hearing the other side out. But during some portions he was drowned out by people in the audience screaming what sounded like, “pay your writers,” “we don’t want you here,” and “shut up, Zaslav.”
The clips quickly gained online attention. Mike Scollins, a writer for “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” (which is currently on hiatus due to the strike), called the chants “so good.”
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also a BU alum, posted the clip as well.
In response to the public booing, Zaslav sent a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, saying “I am immensely supportive of writers and hope the strike is resolved soon and in a way that they feel recognizes their value.”
But this statement has not cooled the waters, as Shawn Wines, a writer and a WGA Captain, posted a meme about it that references the viral “hot dog man,” joke from the sketch show “I Think You Should Leave.” The sketch is often referenced when a public figure is seen to be feigning ignorance about a problem that they are widely viewed as being responsible for.