David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, appears to be trying to quell rumors that he wants to sell the company to companies like Comcast. According to an report of Deadlinehe told employees that “we are not for sale, absolutely not for sale,” during a Zoom call on Wednesday attended by staff across the company.
While he reportedly declined to comment on specific rumours, a recent report from The Hollywood Reporter seems to be the likely target of his comments. Earlier this month, the outlet suggested that “top industry executives” were “convinced” that Warner Bros. was about to merge with Comcast, owners of NBCUniversal and the Peacock streaming service (and, revelationan investor in Vox Media, The edgeparent company). One was even mourning the loss of another major studio after Disney bought 21st Century Fox, the report said.
It’s easy to see why there are rumors that the company is looking for a buyout. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, the search for someone to lead its 10-year DC plan has not been particularly fruitful, has a staggering amount of debt and has had layoffs, with talk about more on the way.
In other words, it’s been a rough few months since the mega merger that created the company was completed. But as my colleague Alex Cranz points out in an excellent post, it is not Zaslav’s goal that Warner Bros. Discovery is winning the streaming wars with whatever service results from the HBO Max and Discovery Plus merger. Instead, he wants to make as much profit as possible with as little investment as possible; however, it must be done. Understandably, people thought the most logical way to make a quick buck would be to package some services and IP into some sort of turnkey purchase for another media company, but that’s assuming Zaslav is playing the same game. plays like everyone else. And right now, it’s not entirely clear that he is.
It is of course always possible that the claim is some kind of 4D chess move to get big offers, but that seems unlikely to me. According to Deadline, he told employees that “we have everything we need to be successful to be the largest entertainment media company in the world,” and the company is well on track to meet its $3 billion cost-cutting goal. Sure, it might look bad for the company’s customers, but why sell when you get your business exactly where you want it?