Employees at WarnerMedia are bracing for another bloodbath as the company’s merger with Discovery nears completion.
After Discovery announced a slew of senior-level departures this week, some WarnerMedia employees are already preparing to be let go. Among the nine departures were WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who was expected to leave the company, as well as Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff and HBO Max general manager Andy Forssell.
According to sources, David Zaslav, the new CEO of the combined company dubbed Warner Bros. Discovery, is expected to take a scalpel to the business in the coming months after taking over on Monday.
According to sources, Zaslav is expected to get into the weeds and be “hands-on” as CEO. Discovery recently stated that this includes finding “cost synergies” of at least $3 billion by 2023.
Discovery did not respond.
As the new CEO has more direct reports, Zaslav’s grip on the company is tightening.
Discovery announced a new organizational structure on Thursday, with ten executives reporting to Zaslav, including HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys, Warner Bros. chairman Toby Emmerich, CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht, and JB Perrette, CEO, and president of Warner Bros. Discovery global streaming and interactive entertainment.
According to The Wrap, this week’s changes have roiled the ranks at WarnerMedia.
“I’ve never witnessed such paranoia.” “It’s terrible, it’s insane,” a Warner Bros. source told the publication. “You can tell these people are nervous.”
According to the source, pandemic isolation has exacerbated the situation: “These people have been working at home for two years. They can’t even communicate [in person].”
Employees at WarnerMedia, who have been kept in the dark about Discovery’s plans, have complained that their new corporate parent, which owns Food Network, Animal Planet, and TLC, has a reputation for being “cheap.”
“I’m sure you’re fine if you work in the ‘Harry Potter’ or games [development departments], but everyone else is worried,” one WarnerMedia employee said.
Despite not being specific, Discovery has identified streaming as a potential area for cost savings, as the merged company would have two streaming offerings in Discovery+ and HBO Max. Discovery has stated that it intends to merge the two services, which would result in some back-office jobs being duplicated, for example.
The transaction, which is expected to close as soon as Friday, is WarnerMedia’s second in the last five years. It is home to HBO, CNN, and Warner Bros. AT&T purchased WarnerMedia, then known as Time Warner, in 2018, and the company has since gone through massive layoffs and restructuring.
Meanwhile, Hollywood insiders told The Washington Post that they hoped Zaslav has the “stomach” to spend on big-budget films and TV shows to fuel company growth while cutting costs. According to them, Zaslav may experience sticker shock because film budgets are much higher than reality TV budgets, which account for the majority of Discovery’s business.
“He’s a very smart guy,” a studio executive said, dismissing the concern. “I believe he is up to the task.”
Social media users who follow media had a more skeptical view of Discovery’s strategy.
“The carnage continues. As Discovery takes over, the WarnerMedia exodus will be brutal. “I’m sorry for the upcoming layoffs at the non-executive level,” one Twitter user wrote.
The carnage continues. As Discovery takes over, the WarnerMedia exodus will be brutal. I’m sorry for the upcoming layoffs at the non-executive level.
— Brandon Katz ☕️ (@Great_Katzby) April 5, 2022
“I do hope the new leadership is considering what they are removing and who will handle that work to the same level,” another user added. I mean, getting rid of the hit platform’s streaming chief [Forssell] and replacing him with someone from the Discovery+ team wouldn’t exactly inspire confidence!”