Following the shocking news that Warner Brothers is shelving a couple of nearly finished films, including Batgirl, CEO of the newly formed and poorly named Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, hopped on an earnings call to tell everyone what his big plan is for the merging of Warner Brothers, one of the last legacy film studios in Hollywood, and Discovery, a basic cable network. In short: one year from now, HBO Max, arguably the best streaming platform right now, will combine with Discovery+, a platform almost no one uses. Equating these two, saying they belong together, is some kind of hopped-up corporate Kool-Aid, and worse, nothing Zaslav said ensures they will stop vanishing original films from HBO Max any time soon. Semi-related fact, about 50% of black-and-white era films are lost because studio honchos throughout the years devalued preserving films that weren’t hits.
Zaslav, who once said “some of [Trump’s] business policies could really be helpful to America”, is giving everyone the willies because he seems to be walking back the previous efforts made at Warners to increase diversity and inclusion, not only on screen but in the executive ranks. Zaslav’s C-suite is overwhelmingly white and male, which is a problem across all of Hollywood, but he also fired Ann Sarnoff, one of the few high-ranking women in the film industry. Like, there was SOME diversity in Warners’ upper echelon, and now there is none. Also, that earnings call was a backwards reductionist disaster, with an actual power point slide that summed up the appeal of HBO Max and Discovery+ as “boys like this one, girls like that one”.
HBO Max is from Mars, discovery+ is from Venus pic.twitter.com/AOi2bRBpHr— Alex Zalben (@azalben) August 4, 2022
It just feels like taking big steps backwards, not to mention ignoring the appeal of shows like Sex and the City, The Flight Attendant, Euphoria, Harley Quinn, Our Flag Means Death, Insecure, and Black Lady Sketch Show to the non-dude audience. Zaslav also iterated a commitment to theatrical release for films, reversing former CEO Jason Kilar’s more streaming-friendly decisions, but that is hard to celebrate when he seems to have no understanding of, or even affection for, Warner Brothers or HBO as entities unto themselves. I’m not here to make fun of people who watch murder shows on Discovery+, but it really bothers me that Zaslav thinks that is equivalent to The Wire and The White Lotus and that they belong on the same platform together. It’s one thing to link passwords and bill people once for both services but combining them into one platform reduces a great legacy film library and one of the most important television libraries into a bucket of slop. That’s all this is. We’ve entered the slop bucket era of entertainment.
Nothing means anything, and no one is trying to save sh-t. Hollywood used to be run by people who actually liked movies, and yeah, some of them were coked-up headcases and a lot of them were terrible chauvinists and sometimes there were murders and things were far, FAR from perfect. But at least those people LIKED MOVIES! And TV! I don’t get the feeling David Zaslav likes anything but saying corporate buzz words like “synergy capture” and “word of mouth buzz”. What’s worse, this guy was supposed repair Warners’ reputation with talent after Kilar’s scorched-earth approach in re: streaming vs. theatrical. But now? I cannot imagine ANYONE wanting to work with Warner Brothers or HBO. Will you even be able to guarantee your work will continue to exist if it’s not a hit?
The moral of the story is, buy physical media whenever possible. Pirate when it’s not. I used to be very against piracy—it really does hurt the industry—but now? F-ck it, let it rip. There’s no guarantee your favorite movies and shows will be around whenever you want to watch them, and yes, your digital copies can be pulled from your online libraries, too. Piracy is going to end up being the 21st century equivalent of finding previously lost film reels in a box in someone’s attic. Anyway, enjoy HBO Max while it lasts.
Live long and gossip,