WGA, TV Showrunners Slam Warner Bros. Discovery and Hollywood’s ‘Merger Mania’

Creators of “The Gordita Chronicles,” “Tuca & Bertie” and “Whistleblower” call out WBD for crushing creative risks and diversity efforts

"Tuca & Bertie" (Netflix)

The Writers Guild of America West released a new bulletin Monday slamming Warner Bros. Discovery for its film and television cancellations as part of its postmerger cost-cutting, saying they prove that the guild’s previous warnings that consolidation in Hollywood would stifle creativity and diversity in entertainment are coming true.

“Absent government intervention, this cycle of reactive consolidation will likely continue until it leaves just three or four companies controlling all content, while content creators and consumers pay the price for these costly mergers,” WGA West warned.

The bulletin also included testimonials from three creators of TV shows canceled by Warner Bros. Discovery: Claudia Forestieri (“The Gordita Chronicles”), Lisa Hanawalt (“Tuca & Bertie”) and Moises Zamora (“Whistleblower”).

The cancellation of Forestieri’s “Gordita Chronicles” made industry headlines last summer as it happened alongside the cancellation of the HBO Max film “Batgirl” and CEO David Zaslav’s hiring of a primarily white, male leadership team. Forestieri recalled how “Gordita Chronicles,” which follows an immigrant Dominican family in Miami, received strong reviews and viewership on HBO Max in its first season, but was not only cancelled by WBD five weeks after its first airing but targeted for removal from the streaming service entirely.

The studio executives claimed the cancellation reflected HBO “rebranding” — by implication, away from shows about Latino families. This merger has provided pretty stark and immediate evidence that industry consolidation not only harms diversity and inclusion, but can also contribute to the erasure of U.S. Latinos,” Forestieri said.

Hanawalt recounted how “Tuca & Bertie” was picked up by Adult Swim after the adult animation comedy was cancelled by Netflix after just one season. Plans had been put in place to give the show a strong marketing campaign, but the entire team was laid off following the Warner Bros. Discovery merger, prompting several executives at Adult Swim and HBO Max who championed “Tuca & Bertie” to leave.

“Then we learned the show had been cancelled. It’s already harder for shows centered on women, and this merger cost us the support we needed to thrive,” Hanawalt said.

Zamora sold “Whistleblower” to HBO Max in February 2021. The show told the true story of the female attorneys who fought against the culture of silence surrounding sexual assault in the military.

“The leads were three BIPOC women, and it was a story I was excited to tell. Despite it all, the series was cancelled soon after the merger, before it went into production,” Zamora said. “The press speculation is that the new company is focusing more on what’s seen as ‘Middle America’ content. But Black, Asian, and Latinx communities are Middle America too.”

The WGA West called out WBD for its claim when the merger was completed last spring that it would “be
able to invest in more original content,” and “create more opportunity for underrepresented storytellers
and independent creators,” only to announce $2 billion in cancellations, content removal and tax write-offs.

“The series of mergers that led us here—first the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger and then the $43 billion WarnerMedia Discovery merger—have each promised to create a better competitor but have instead left the merged entity debt-burdened and focused on cutting costs to rationalize these disastrous business decisions. Yet media’s merger mania shows no sign of slowing,” the guild said.