Members of the WGA have so far picketed each of the TV fronts, and the strikers didn’t miss an opportunity to pin it on David Zaslav at the Warner Bros. Discovery presentation to advertisers Wednesday morning.
Warner Bros. Discovery presented its many slates (across many platforms) of shows to media buyers at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. (MSG is considered the mecca of pro basketball and home to Zaslav’s beloved New York Knicks; those walking past the NYPD-contained picket line weren’t Zaslav fans.) While the actors on the scripted series have avoided every early event thus far, NBCUniversal, Fox and Disney each had unscripted talent in their presentations; Warner Bros. Discovery does not.
“We made the decision to only have executives on stage out of respect for our talent and the WGA,” Jon Steinlauf, the company’s chief ad-sales officer in the United States, said at the start of the program. Zaslav was there, said Steinlauf (pictured above), but this year he hasn’t taken the stage or been put on screen.
Other (most involved) executives included CNN’s Chris Licht, WBD sports chief Luis Silberwasser, its streaming chief JB Perrette, lifestyle programming’s Kathleen Finch, inclusive partnership chief Sheereen Russell (pictured below), Casey Bloys of HBO and Chief Revenue Officer Bruce Campbell. Some unscripted talent, such as Anderson Cooper and the “NBA on TNT” gang, have joined via video.
Bloys began his shift by expressing a desire for a “fair resolution” of the deadlock between the WGA and AMPTP, acknowledging how much better the advance would be with the talent in place. “First, let me just start by saying I hope a fair settlement is found soon with the writers… bringing the talent back to the stage, let’s be honest, making this show a lot more fun,” she said. “Until then, you’re kind of stuck with me and my clips.”
As Campbell closed the show, an audience member seated immediately behind us asked, “Is that it?” Era.
Zaslav has been a major target of the WGA and many of its members’ protest signs, including at non-WBD events. Why? Well, for starters, the corporate overlord’s compensation was nearly $40 million in 2022, making him among the highest-paid media executives. The ratio of Zaslav’s pay to the employee’s median (not average) pay for that year (about $173,000) was 227:1.
If you think that’s bad, in 2021, the last (full) year of his tenure on Discovery alone, Zaslav recognized more than $246 million in his all-in package, according to an SEC filing, of which the extra About $200 million came from options awards. The WGA thinks it’s all bad: On Tuesday, the union released numbers that said the burden on Warner Bros. to resolve the strike would be $47 million a year, or about 1 percent of the union’s overall annual revenue. agency. (Or, a little more than Zaslav earns in a typical year.)
Here, Warner Bros. Discovery’s accountants would surely like to point out that an executive’s reported compensation isn’t quite as straightforward as Zaslav gets a check for $246,571,481; some of it comes that way, sure, but much of a C-suite member’s compensation comes in stock and depends on a company meeting certain goals. The April 2022 merger between Discovery, Inc. and former AT&T subsidiary Warner Bros. only complicates matters further here. At the time, the average salary of the Discovery, Inc. employee was approximately $83,000, which was 2,917 times less than Zaslav’s package.
On Wednesday, Warner Bros. Discovery announced a new All Elite Wrestling (AEW) show for Saturdays on TNT, a Michael Bay-produced true-crime ID series, a Conan O’Brien international travel series for Max, a ” Joe Schmo Show” reboot on TBS and a Food Network show with Selena Gomez, just to name a few.