Warner Bros. has a lot on its plate at the moment due to past sins and the merger with Discovery, and the load is getting bigger and heavier all the time.
There is such a gaggle of problems the old regime left CEO David Zaslav with that the thing he wants to focus on, finding someone with the vision of Kevin Feige to run DC Films, is harder to prioritize.
YouTuber and pundit Thinking Critical pointed this out when citing and reacting to an article by The Hollywood Reporter — “Warner Bros. Discovery Has Bigger Problems Than Its DC Search” — that discusses issues WBD has with debt.
The company’s hefty debt is a nebulous burden they have to lift to be solvent enough to climb out of their tumbling stock and instill confidence in shareholders on Wall Street again. As such, the cuts came fast and hard and it was goodbye to Batgirl and other films.
Zaslav and CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels think they are making progress but THR argues there is another buyout looming, this one by NBCUniversal, that it’s hoped will bail them out of their woes.
Thinking Critical singles out a paragraph explaining a deal that could be made which says, “Given the company’s daunting challenges, it has become accepted wisdom at the highest levels of the industry that another deal waits in the wings for Warner Bros. Discovery.”
It continues, “For reasons related to the complicated structure of that merger, no negotiations can happen until April 2024. But at that point, many industry observers believe that Comcast’s Brian Roberts will make a long-awaited move, looking to combine NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. Discovery.”
Next, THR talked to an insider whose opinion is Zaslav is priming Warner for another sale even if the buyer’s streaming offering is substandard. “That deal would face some interesting antitrust issues but would give his company scale and a viable streaming service,” says the trade.
They add, “‘Obviously Peacock sucks,’ says one exec with knowledge of both companies. ‘There are some good synergies. I’m sure [Roberts] is licking his chops because the [WBD] stock is so low. And I think that’s Zaslav’s endgame. Get the place sold.’”
Thinking Critical reminds his viewers that constant selling and mergers have been the status quo for the last several years. Zack Snyder and a shared universe were in, and then suddenly out in favor of the Multiverse to justify standalone films Joker and The Batman.
Joss Whedon and the studio cut of Justice League were part of that conundrum but repudiated this year, it seems, in favor of the old Snyderverse. What’s old is new again, at least for the time being.
According to Thinking Critical, a new merger would keep the instability train going and the effects would trickle down to the publishing arm.
This, he argues, will hamstring Jim Lee and the gutted staff even further as decision-making would be nearly impossible with more corporate heads playing musical chairs.
There will be no consistent vision at DC Films or Comics if the cinema wing is changing leaders every year or so, and if Lee can’t sit down and make an eight-year plan, assuming he has the forethought.
An eight or ten-year plan isn’t feasible if there is a merger with job losses every two years. “The DCEU just can’t be successful right now,” Thinking Critical said, and they certainly can’t compete with Marvel — not that they’re doing well either.
The difficulty of finding a DC film head committed for the long haul and willing to work under Zaslav still provides a huge obstacle despite debt and mergers being bigger issues.
“Zaslav doesn’t know what he doesn’t know,” as one leading talent rep puts it to THR. “That’s scary. And you’re always going to be compared to Marvel.”
The person added, “It’s unfair. By the time they were being judged, it was working. It’s the exact opposite at Warner. It’s rough all around. Who the f—k would want that job?”
They later point out “DC is so fragmented,” as well as mashing of egos. “J.J. [Abrams] had this one, Zack Snyder had that one, Todd Phillips had the other thing. And they’re all such huge egos.”
THR claims Zaslav doesn’t inspire confidence with his tough management style and neither does Wiedenfels with his method of slashing content “without warning.” However, a Warner spokesperson denied the place was for sale, stating they’re “building…for the long term.”
Yet, going with the premise of uncertainty, the YouTuber predicts a reboot for DC on film in 2023, another in 2024 when the prophesied merger with NBCU takes hold, and the end of DC in comics as we know it through licensing of characters.
David Zaslav, Thinking Critical believes, is all right with that.