WBD CEO David Zaslav Talks Strike, Hopes ‘All Sides Will Get Back to the Negotiating Table’

In the short term, the company estimated it was saving $100 million from lower content spending

David Zaslav
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As the WGA strike approaches its 100-day mark and actors have joined the picket lines, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav weighed in on Hollywood’s labor unrest during the company’s second quarter earnings call Thursday, calling for creatives to be fairly compensated.

The company’s CFO also revealed that its current financial models are based around the unions returning to work in “early September.”

“We’re in the business of storytelling. Our goal is to tell great stories,” Zaslav said. “And we cannot do any of that without the entirety of the creative community. The great creative community with the writers, directors, editors, producers, actors and the whole below the line crew, our job is to enable and empower them to do their best work. We’re hopeful that all sides will get back to the negotiating table so that the strikes get resolved in a way that the writers and actors feel they are fairly compensated and their efforts and contributions are fully valued.”

Later in the call, the company also revealed it has seen “modest cash saving” due to the impact of the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Warner Bros. Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels estimated that the savings from the strikes has been in the “low $100 million range” during the second quarter.

“While we are hoping for a fast resolution, our modeling assumes a return to work date in early September,” Wiedenfels said.

Wiedenfels also noted that if the strikes were to continue throughout the end of the year, he expects that would add an “upside” of “several $100 million” to the company’s free cash flow guidance. It would also result in an expected incremental downside for adjusted EBITA.

Zaslav emphasized that he is “very focused” on resolving the ongoing strikes.

“We have to focus on getting that done. I’m hopeful that is going to happen soon. I think all of us in this business are very keen to figure out a solution as quickly as possible,” Zaslav said. “In good faith, we all got to fight to get to get this resolved.”

That early September prediction is notable as the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is expected to meet with the Writers Guild this week. This meeting — which is a discussion about potentially renegotiating rather than an official renegotiation — will mark the first time the two have met since the guild went on strike in early May. The AMPTP has yet to meet with or reach out to SAG-AFTRA since the actors started striking on July 14.

For all of TheWrap’s WGA strike coverage, click here.