Maybe Don’t Sell Everything to Netflix

The question for David Zaslav: Is anything off limits?
The question for David Zaslav: Is anything off limits? Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
November 6, 2023

I joked a while back that Warner Bros. Discovery C.E.O. David Zaslav would auction Jack Warner’s antique desk if it helped pay down even a tiny sliver of the company’s crippling debt. A few months later, that humor now seems quaint. Zaslav actually is selling off the crown jewels—or at least renting his biggest I.P.-driven movies—to generate that needed cash, yes, but also while helping the industry’s 800 lb gorilla pull away from the rest of Hollywood. More proof that the Streaming Wars are over…   

If you missed it, Netflix announced a flex this week: 12 of the recent DC films from Warner Bros. will drop Dec. 1 on the service in the U.S., joining a growing trove of Warner Discovery’s HBO shows, like Band of Brothers and Insecure. These aren’t musty library titles, either, they’re pretty much all the recent DC Extended Universe extravaganzas, up to the 2022 films, The Batman, Black Adam, and DC League of Super-Pets (minus Aquaman and Joker, which is a bit weird because you’d think Zaz would want to drum up interest in their upcoming sequels; maybe the data shows people will instead sign up to Max to get caught up).

We know why they’re doing this: They really need the money. Everyone does. Hence the industry-wide price hikes and spending cuts—a strategy that is starting to be rewarded by Wall Street, if the current earnings season and jubilation over reduced streaming losses is any indication. (Disney reports its financials on Wednesday.) In that context, selling DC movies to Netflix is an easy move for WBD C.F.O. and reigning What I’m Hearing Villain of the Year Gunnar Wiedenfels, who’s repenting for the sins of former C.E.O. Jason Kilar and the scale-mongers that drove Hollywood off a cliff.