David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery.
Olivia Michael | CNBC
The media industry is in a transition period – from streaming to traditional television – and the focus must be on ending the writers and actors strikes. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said this on Wednesday.
“We are a content company. We are a storytelling company. And we need to do everything we can to get people back to work,” Zaslav said at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia and Technology conference. “People need to be compensated fairly.”
“We as an industry really need to focus on this, and we are, and try to resolve this issue in a really fair way.”
The comments came a day after Warner Bros. Discovery informed investors that the company has revised its full-year outlook, taking into account the impact of strikes by actors and writers should they continue through the end of the year. Originally, the company’s forecast was based on the assumption that the strikes would end in September.
The company now expects its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to decline by $300 million to $500 million, for a full-year range of $10.5 billion to $11 billion.
Zaslav took part in discussions with members of the Writers Guild of America union, which had been on strike for more than 100 days, and took part in discussions with the actors’ union, which began its strike in July.
The work stoppages have halted production on Hollywood sets, affecting companies such as Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns a television and film studio and the largest portfolio of pay-TV networks.
On Wednesday, Zaslav spoke about the various issues facing the industry as a whole – from the strikes to cinemas still feeling the effects of the pandemic, to the difficult advertising market, to the expansion of the streaming business.
The company has focused on increasing its free cash flow and paying down its debt, most of which comes from the 2022 merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery. The impact of the strikes is not expected to have an impact on the company’s debt repayment and net debt target for the year.
Warner ended the second quarter with $47.8 billion in debt. In recent months, the company has made two takeover bids, both as a means of paying down its debt.
On Wednesday, Zaslav said efforts remain the company’s focus as it has made decisions to cut costs, adding that there are no plans to “jeopardize” the company’s health for any content.
Warner Bros. Discovery recently entered into talks with the NBA about the upcoming rights renewal, he said Wednesday.
Still, like its peers, Warner Bros. Discovery has been looking for ways to expand its streaming business. Max, its flagship streaming service, relaunched earlier this year.
Zaslav said the company will release updates on adding sports to Max in the coming weeks. CNBC previously reported that the company is targeting the start of the MLB playoffs to introduce an esports tier on Max.
This month Max is adding more content from the portfolio of Warner Bros. Discovery and other media companies. Also, more than 200 episodes of the series have been added AMC Networkswhich will be available in a specific hub over the next two months – free for Max subscribers.
Later this month, CNN will join the Max platform as a 24/7 live news hub featuring the network’s top anchors.
https://www.cnbc.com/2023/09/06/warner-bros-discovery-ceo-says-writers-actors-strikes-need-to-end.html Warner Bros. Discovery CEO says writers’ and actors’ strikes must end