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A Very Zaz X-mas

David Zaslav arrives at the Sun Valley Lodge for the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 11, 2023, in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Zaslav’s predicament—the debt, the streaming pivot, etcetera—is Hollywood’s too, and, fairly or unfairly, he has become the caricature for this uncertain era in the media business. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
December 6, 2023

On Tuesday night, after tying some lights around the palm trees outside my front door, I ventured down the hill to Sunset Tower, the iconic, century-old Hollywood landmark and onetime A-list pied-à-terre, for the annual Warner Bros. Discovery holiday media party. This was the first (for me, anyway) in a gauntlet of mediaco cocktail-and-canapés soirées that stretch from now until a week before Christmas in Los Angeles and New York. These events, which cap the professional year with a healthy dash of civility and cheer, are effectively a party favor for the more obsequious members of the trade press, an olive branch to more critical chroniclers, and, in their best iterations, a reminder that no matter what happens in the occasionally contentious arena of press and public relations, we’re all adults trying our level best to notch wins and sustain losses, and thus all deserving of a Christmas truce.

In any event, this seemed like an opportune time to check in with David Zaslav & Co. and take stock of the pilgrim’s progress, 20 months post-merger. It’s no secret that Zaz looms large in the Puck Cinematic Universe. His rise to media moguldom via a brilliant stealth merger, his subsequent fall from Hollywood and Wall Street (and the media’s) good graces, and his unyielding effort to weather the storm and mastermind an exit, is in itself among the most compelling business stories of our time. More importantly, Zaz’s predicament—the debt, the streaming pivot, etcetera—is Hollywood’s too, and, fairly or unfairly, he has become the caricature for this uncertain era in the media business.