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Zaslav’s Next Move: Here Come the Layoffs

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
August 7, 2022

Not a great week for the Hollywood rumor mill, right? I think the combination of industry-wide anxieties and some bad trade reporting led to a freak-out in advance of a pretty uneventful Warner Bros. Discovery reveal. No, HBO Max is not shuttering. Or pulling back from international. Or becoming a tile on Discovery+ (though I’m told one name being discussed for the planned combined streaming service is HBO Discovery). Someone actually came up to me at The Grill and asked which outlet I thought would pick up the sure-to-be-dumped Hacks. Really? An Emmy winner? I even heard from an otherwise rational person at Warners who believed the company was 100 percent selling DC, as if that made any sense.

In fact, as I noted in my Batgirl dispatch, the big surprise on Thursday was the increasingly grim financial situation of the combined company as a whole. A $2 billion decline in projected EBITDA for 2023, a worsening outlook for the linear networks, and, of course, that $50-something billion in crushing debt. All entertainment companies are in a weird place right now, caught between the cratering TV business and the Great Netflix Correction. But WBD, despite all its great assets, is in an especially weird place because of its financial situation. Meaning that while Peacock might be losing nearly a half a billion dollars a quarter for Comcast, and Disney’s direct-to-consumer division bled $887 million, those companies haven’t been bought and sold multiple times in the past decade. And they’re offsetting the streaming losses with broadband and theme park profits. WBD is both smaller and more dependent on television/streaming revenue.