David Zaslav, former CEO of Discovery Communications, is being considered to replace AT&T’s “renowned” entertainment boss Bob Iger as the leader of Hollywood. He could be a good fit for this job due to his experience in cable TV and international media acquisitions.
There’s a dearth of renowned persons managing studios, thanks to recent (mostly retired) moguls like Jeffrey Katzenberg, Bob Iger, Barry Diller, and David Geffen. There are now more pencil pushers than flare in the sector founded by flashy personalities and unscrupulous power grabbers.
Greetings, and welcome to the streaming battles. David Zaslav, the long-serving CEO of Discovery Cable, who just purchased WarnerMedia for $43 billion. “King David,” according to industry insiders, has the attitude and panache to shake up the whole business. As competitors fly in, A-listers scream, and strong Hollywood labor unions reject every cost-cutting initiative, he’ll need it.
Former Hollywood executives believe that charm, laser-like attention, and personality traits are all part of the industry’s appeal. “You forget about everything and feel like they just care about you when you talk to him.”
Insiders are aware of Zaslav’s magnetism, which he uses to build connections and scare opponents in order to get what he wants. Because of his charm, he is one of the most well-connected corporate executives – and someone you should be aware of.
Tales of legends. He invites everyone from Lorne Michaels to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to his annual Labor Day celebration in the Hamptons.
He has ties to a Supreme Court justice and at least two presidents. President Bill Clinton presented Zaslav with a honor in 2010 for his contributions to Discovery’s educational programming.
After receiving the prize at the annual Clinton Global Initiative, Zaslav’s ability to retain people’s attention was put to the test. One attendee at the Sheraton Hotel’s VIP event that night remarked, “It was odd seeing Clinton come in and he took the air out of the room.” Zaslav stated of his audience, “They never glanced up.”
In what may be a limited honeymoon period, the first CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery confronts critics who are already lined up. Despite the fact that the Los Angeles headquarters are in an ethnically diverse location, his first key decision, choosing a board, drew heavy criticism for not include any Latinos.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition repurposed the new Warner Bros. Discovery logo on Twitter, modifying the phrase from “Unless You’re Latino” to “Unless You’re Latino.”
Zaslav is also unknown outside of New York and Washington, D.C., where politics, journalism, and business are intertwined. Others, such as former CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, were able to connect with Americans on a personal level.
Zaslav started his career as a young NBC executive in 1989 and rose through the ranks to become the CEO of Discovery Communications in 2006. Food Network, TLC, and Animal Planet, among the cable giant’s trademarks, pale in comparison to the Big Three networks.
In 2021, Zaslav’s compensation package surpassed $246 million, marking him the highest-paid CEO of any American public company. Disney CEO Bob Chapek earned $32.5 million, compared to Iger’s $54.9 million. Because to the firm’s expansion and the ownership of mentor John Malone, Zaslav frequently ranks first in the top earnings list.
When the deal was revealed last spring, several Warner Bros. employees went straight to their computers and typed in “Z-A-S-L-A-V.” According to one development executive, a new employee began referring to him as “the Shark Week person.”
CNN, which is owned by Warner, insulted the Discovery CEO in a headline a few years ago: “David Zaslav earned $156 million last year. Who?”
They’ll find out sooner or later.
Due to overlapping sectors like as broadcasting, marketing, and back office services, the company is preparing to reduce $3 billion in expenditures, with Wall Street experts privately characterizing the expected layoffs as a “bloodbath.” There’s no official announcement yet, but the job layoffs might outnumber those done three years ago when Disney bought 21st Century Fox’s entertainment sector.
Zaslav will go to many cities to speak with the 27,000 Warner Bros. workers who are facing layoffs. According to CNN staffers, the new boss commended CNN’s coverage of Ukraine and voiced confidence in the recently established CNN+ streaming service.
Warner Bros. operations in Atlanta, WarnerMedia/HBO headquarters in Culver City, and a company-wide town hall on the famed Warner Bros. property on Thursday are all on his itinerary. The all-hands meeting is unlikely to be confrontational, but there will almost certainly be a sense of unease. According to Bank of America media analyst Jessica Reif, “optimization potential” includes anything from payroll software to third-party marketing expenditure.
Gunnar, in her view, is the finest in the industry. “Everything in the merged firm will be scrutinized, and [Zaslav] will be through a painful transition over the next six months.”
As the industry works out when to release movies in theaters and when to stream them, the new leadership team hopes to revamp the almost century-old Warner Bros. studio.
The intrigues of Hollywood moguls fascinate most Americans, thus CEOs like Zaslav will be prominent. On Discovery, almost anybody with a computer or a television may view Warner Bros. films, HBO series, and reality TV shows.
“David has the charisma and determination to keep expanding and innovating the company,” said a banker familiar to the cable provider’s AT&T studio transaction. “The celebrity CEO era is here.”