The sudden and dramatic cancellation of Batgirl was not as big a deal to those within Warner Bros. Discovery as it was to the press. This is the observation coming from WBD Chief Financial Officer Gunnar Wiedenfels.
He made this clear at the Bank of America Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference, as per Deadline’s report, but acknowledges there has been scrutiny swirling around the new heads of the recently-merged conglomerate since the deal was closed.
Still, the exec is bullish about their reputation in the entertainment industry going forward, adding WBD haven’t endured the hit everyone thinks they did by canceling Batgirl and HBO Max original content. It’s all just media chatter in his view.
“Media likes to talk about [the] media, I guess,” Wiedenfels said. “We have healthy relationships with talent, and we are offering one of the best platforms for anyone in the creative space.”
When the moderator asked if there was some kind of reset strategy for DC, he replied there wasn’t. “No,” he said. “There’s a new team coming in, forming a view, providing a financial framework to assess these things.”
He adds, “The focus is, on a go-forward basis here, we’re spending more than ever in the history of the two legacy companies on content. We will continue to make significant investments.”
And he continued, “We’ll make them differently, with a different financial rigor and a different focus on full utilization across all platforms, et cetera, but this is the lifeblood of the company and we’ll continue to be investing in it.”
Deadline notes the critique of “the awkward optics of ditching a film starring a Latina actress” did not come up during the discussion and the only reference to the future head of DC was that CEO David Zaslav was still looking for his Kevin Feige.
Talks with film producer and former would-be co-producer of Justice League Mortal Dan Lin quickly fell apart. If the fact he jokingly called Snyderverse supporters “bots” while still in negotiations wasn’t the reason, it sure didn’t help when Zaslav seems to favor the timeline.
Wiedenfels also assured the company is moving closer toward its $3 billion money-saving goal and that it has “passed the $1 billion mark in synergies.” This has been an uphill battle as the joining of Warner and Discovery operations is actually a matter of “five entities blending: Warner Bros, HBO, Turner, CNN, and Discovery.”
“People are working as hard and as fast as possible,” he says, to bring everything into a concordance and to meet the estimated mid-2023 timetable of merging Discovery+ and HBO Max.
Asked why WBD hadn’t considered bundling their offerings instead of merging them, Wiedenfels replied “HBO Max titles are more of a ‘lighthouse’ to draw subscribers…while Discovery+ delivers ‘long daily viewership’ and engagement.”