Warner Bros Discovery’s hour-long earnings call with Wall Street analysts Friday morning included nary a mention of the WGA strike, unlike many other such calls in recent days.
But the company’s CEO told CNBC’s Squawk Box in an appearance prior to the call what he believes will bring the impasse to an end: “A love for the business and a love for working. We all came into this business because we love storytelling. … That’s what’s going to bring us together.”
When co-hosts Andrew Ross Sorkin and Joe Keenan suggested that studios might be “glad” that the guild is on strike because they will be able to cut costs, Zaslav hastily replied, “We’re not glad.”
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The exec said he is eager for a resolution to the strike, which threatens to halt Hollywood’s momentum after the clouds of Covid were just starting to part. “In order to create great storytelling, we need great writers,” Zaslav said. “We need the whole industry to work together. Everybody deserves to be paid fairly.” He said a proper resolution would be done “in a way that makes the writers feel they are valued, which they are, and compensated fairly. And then off we go.”
CEOs have been public targets in the days following Tuesday’s official start to the strike, with Paramount CEO Bob Bakish being scrutinized yesterday after he offered his take on the labor situation. Zaslav also was called out — live on WBD-owned CNN, no less — by comedian and Adam Ruins Everything host Adam Conover for his historically lofty compensation.
Earnings calls are not required under SEC rules, but are generally part of public company’s quarterly efforts to be transparent. Management can often shape the tone of the discussion by pre-selecting which analysts are chosen during the Q&A portion of the call, which follows prepared remarks. Whether or not the company urged analysts to avoid the strike topic — a company rep did not immediately offer an on-the-record response when contacted by Deadline — the absence of it was noteworthy.
Bakish said during Paramount’s earnings call on Thursday that while he believes writers are “essential,” the company has “many levers to pull” and “a lot in the can” to make it through the strike. the comments drew immediate push-back from writers. David Goodman, former president of the WGA and co-chair of the negotiating committee, said Bakish “sounds scared” based on those comments.
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