Warner Bros. Discovery boss David Zaslav didn’t mince words about the company’s controversial decision to cancel releases for “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt.”
“We’re not going to launch a movie until it’s ready,” Zaslav said on a a quarterly earnings call late Thursday. “We’re not going to launch a movie to make a quarter and we’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it.”
Warner Bros. Discovery, whose properties include HBO, CNN, Warner Bros., HGTV and TLC, shocked fans when it announced earlier this week it would scrap the already-completed “Batgirl,” starring “In the Heights” star Leslie Grace.
While cutting “Batgirl” and the animated sequel to 2020’s “Scoob!” will likely save the media giant a fortune in marketing costs and any back-end payouts, it rattled employees, who according to Puck News, call Zaslav “the butcher” behind closed doors.
Since the $43 billion merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia closed, Zaslav has displayed a no-nonsense, budget-focused leadership style that has translated to more than a few rip-the-Band-Aid-off decisions.
Most notably: shortly after the merger closed, the CEO shuttered CNN’s month-old $300 million streaming service CNN+.
On Thursday’s earnings call, Zaslav underscored the importance of smart financial decisions when it comes to big-ticket releases — “Batgirl” cost reportedly the company between $70 million and $90 million — and he pointed to the company’s DC superhero properties as central to the company’s broader strategy.
“You look at Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman — these are brands that are known everywhere in the world,” the CEO said. “We have done a reset. We’ve restructured the business where we are going to focus, where there is going to be a team with a 10-year plan focusing just on DC. We believe we can build a much more sustainable business.”
Zaslav’s strategy is similar to Disney’s playbook for Marvel, the movie studio that dominates the box office with billion dollar blockbusters like the “Avengers” franchise.
Run by Kevin Feige, Marvel is the highest-grossing film franchise in history, and Zaslav recently brought in Feige’s former boss retired Disney film chief Alan Horn, as consultant.
“It’s very similar to the structure Alan Horn, [former Disney CEO] Bob Iger and Kevin Feige put together very effectively at Disney,” Zaslav said of his strategy. “We think we can build a much stronger, sustainable growth business out of DC. As part of that, we are going to focus on quality. We are not going to release any film before it’s ready. … DC is something we can make better.”