Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav‘s name graced many a picket sign during the Writers Guild of America’s 148-day strike, with everything from his exec comp to content-cutting choices called out in writers’ anti-Hollywood studios jokes.
Now that the work stoppage is over, the writers might consider reexamining their opinion of Zaslav, who concedes the WGA was “right about almost everything.”
In a profile published by Wednesday by The New York Times Magazine, Zaslav said he does not regret the concessions that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) made to finally close that tentative deal with the writers union Sept. 24.
“They are right about almost everything. So what if we overpay? I’ve never regretted overpaying for great talent or a great asset,” Zaslav said.
What’s overpaying? That’s in the eye of the content beholder (exec, writer, talent, audience, etc.), but in the Times story, one example given (and specifically denied to both the Times and Variety by a Warner Bros. spokesperson) is when Warner Bros. Film co-chair Pam Abdy allegedly told filmmaker Greta Gerwig during development on “Barbie” that she would not have greenlit the movie at its new $145 million budget compared to its original budget of $80 million. Of course, “Barbie” went on to be a smash hit for Warner Bros., putting up $162 million in its release weekend alone.
Zaslav was among a small group of top Hollywood studio chiefs, including Disney’s Bob Iger, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, that began appearing in the WGA-AMPTP negotiating room in August to show their commitment to concluding talks and inking a deal with the writers even as the actors’ work stoppage raged on.
According to the Times, Zaslav’s push to meet with the writers at the negotiating table, which began with a call made to WGA negotiating committee co-chairman Chris Keyser, stemmed from conversations with media banker Aryeh Bourkoff, who worked on the sale of WarnerMedia to Discovery from AT&T.
Following Iger’s strike comments during an interview with CNBC at the media-mogul-heavy Sun Valley conference in July, when he said the writers and actors’ expectations were “not realistic,” Bourkoff reportedly said this could be Zaslav’s “Lew Wasserman moment,” invoking the Hollywood titan who was long credited for smoothing the path between both sides in the studio and union battles.