David Zaslav

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David Zaslav
Born (1960-01-15) January 15, 1960 (age 64)
EducationBinghamton University (BS)
Boston University (JD)
OccupationMedia executive
TitleCEO and president of Warner Bros. Discovery
SpousePam Zaslav
Children3

David Zaslav (born January 15, 1960) is an American media executive who is the current CEO and president of Warner Bros. Discovery.[1]

After becoming CEO and president of Discovery, Inc. in 2006, Zaslav oversaw changes in its channels, which largely shifted from education-oriented programming to reality television.[2] In April 2022, Zaslav oversaw the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia into Warner Bros. Discovery, and later the re-naming of the streaming service HBO Max into Max.[3] He has been strongly criticized for his business decisions, including removing titles from the company's streaming platforms to avoid paying residuals and canceling nearly finished projects in order to claim tax write-offs.[4]

Early life

David Zaslav was born into a Jewish family[5][6] in New York City's Brooklyn borough[7] on January 15, 1960.[8] His family spent the diaspora in Poland and Ukraine.[9][10] At the age of eight, he moved with his family to Ramapo, New York, where he graduated from Ramapo High School.[11][12] He earned a B.S. from Binghamton University, then graduated with honors from the Boston University School of Law with a J.D. in 1985. He started his career as an attorney with LeBoeuf, Lamb, Lieby and MacRae in New York.[13]

Career

NBCUniversal

Zaslav joined NBC in 1989.[14] As president of Cable and Domestic TV and New Media Distribution, he oversaw content distribution to all forms of TV, negotiated for cable and satellite carriage of NBCUniversal networks and forged media partnerships.[15][16]

His responsibilities extended to Bravo, CNBC World, SCI FI, ShopNBC, Sleuth, Telemundo, Telemundo Puerto Rico, mun2, Trio, Universal HD, USA Network, NBC Weather Plus and the Olympics on cable.

Zaslav also oversaw NBCUniversal's interests in A&E, The History Channel, The Biography Channel, National Geographic International, the Sundance Channel and TiVo.[17][18]

Discovery

Zaslav became CEO of Discovery Communications in November 16, 2006, succeeding Judith McHale.[19] Zaslav instigated a shift in strategy by the company, aiming to see itself as a "content company" rather than a "cable company" by bolstering its main networks (such as its namesake Discovery Channel) as multi-platform brands.[20] As CEO, Zaslav oversaw the development and launch of new networks such as Planet Green (later rebranded as Destination America),[21] The Hub,[22][23] Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN),[24] Velocity,[25][26] and Investigation Discovery,[27] as well as the company's 2018 acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive,[28] expansion of its digital education operations,[29] and current emphasis on streaming services.[30]

Under his leadership, Discovery began trading as a public company in 2008, became a Fortune 500 company in 2014 and acquired Scripps Networks Interactive in 2018.[31]

Warner Bros. Discovery

In May 2021, it was announced that Zaslav would serve as CEO of a proposed merger of Discovery with a spin-out of AT&T's WarnerMedia, succeeding Jason Kilar.[32][33] Zaslav's executive compensation package includes an annual salary of $3 million with an annual $22 million bonus. In his contract extension, Zaslav also received stock options valued at $190 million.[34][35][36]

Since August 2022, Zaslav received heavy criticism for his decision to heavily shrink down the content library on the streaming service HBO Max, by avoiding residual payments to be used as tax write-offs. The total accounted loss was nearly $25 billion off the company's market cap.[37] Some of those projects were "practically finished" or in the late stages of post-production, including Batgirl, Scoob! Holiday Haunt and Coyote vs. Acme.[38] Zaslav also received backlash for the removal of many of Warner Bros' animated programs from streaming platforms and pulling some of the service's content in general, including Final Space (which was written-off for taxes), Tig n' Seek, Elliott from Earth, Infinity Train, Summer Camp Island, The Fungies!, Close Enough, The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo and nearly 200 episodes of Sesame Street, among others, a decision Infinity Train creator Owen Dennis remarked rendered many of the programs effectively as "lost media".[39][40][41]

As head of Warner Bros. Discovery, Zaslav appointed Chris Licht as CEO of CNN in 2022 and received criticism for not interviewing internal candidates.[42] With Zaslav's support, Licht implemented changes at CNN that sought to make the channel more palatable to American conservatives.[43] Zaslav fired Licht in June 2023.[44]

In 2023, Zaslav oversaw cuts to Turner Classic Movies (TCM), known for its contributions to film preservation.[45][4] In June 2023, filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Paul Thomas Anderson met with Zaslav to receive assurances that TCM would be protected.[45]

During the 2023 Hollywood labor disputes, David Zaslav said that Warner Bros. Discovery and other Hollywood studios were "not glad" that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes had occurred and that the company was working to resolve the strike and compensate writers and actors fairly.[46] According to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, the demands of their workers would cost WBD an estimated $47 million.[47] In September 2023, WBD estimated that the strike caused losses of $300 million-$500 million for the company.[48]

In December 2023, Zaslav and Bob Bakish discussed the possibility of Warner Bros. Discovery merging with Paramount Global.[49] TD Cowen analyst, Doug Creutz, told The Hollywood Reporter: “We have a very hard time believing the current FTC/DOJ, which has been very aggressive in combating industry consolidation, would give this deal a pass.”[50] However, in February 2024, the discussion was abandoned.

Boards and other activities

Zaslav serves on the boards of Sirius XM, The Cable Center, Center for Communication, Grupo Televisa, Partnership for New York City, Syracuse University and USC Shoah Foundation.[51] He also is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Paley Center for Media and the Mt. Sinai Medical Center.[52] He is chair of the Auschwitz: The Past Is Present Committee which promotes awareness of the Holocaust.[10][5][53] In 2012, he received the Steven J. Ross Humanitarian Award from the United Jewish Appeal Federation(UJA) of New York which honors people of vision, energy and sustained achievement in the entertainment, media and communications industries.[54]

In 2014, Zaslav was awarded the Fred Dressler Leadership Award by Syracuse University's S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.[51][13]

David Zaslav was awarded the Susan Newhouse & SI Newhouse Award of Hope for his support of the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD) in September 2016.[55]

In 2017, Zaslav was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.[56]

In 2022, he was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People.[57]

Personal life

Zaslav lives in New York City with his wife Pam and their three children.[51] His daughter, Ali, is a congressional producer with CNN.[58]

During the 2020 election cycle, Zaslav donated over $240,000 to Democratic politicians and PACs,[59] as well as $5,600 to Republican senator Jim Risch.[60]

References

  1. ^ Kovach, Steve & Meredith, Sam (May 17, 2021). "AT&T announces $43 billion deal to merge WarnerMedia with Discovery". CNBC. Retrieved April 8, 2022.
  2. ^ Cranz, Alex (August 27, 2022). "HBO Max and Warner Bros. Discovery seem to be on fire, and that's on purpose". The Verge.
  3. ^ Vilas-Boas, Savannah Salazar, Eric (April 12, 2023). "They Really Are Just Calling It Max". Vulture.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b "He Made a Mess of CNN. Now He's Ruining Turner Classic Movies Too". The New Republic. June 24, 2023. ISSN 0028-6583.
  5. ^ a b "Steven Spielberg And David Zaslav Commemorate Auschwitz Liberation 70th Anniversary". Jewish Business News. January 25, 2015.
  6. ^ Ghermezian, Shiryn (January 25, 2015). "Hollywood Heavyweights to Join Spielberg at Auschwitz Commemoration Ceremony in Poland". Algemeiner Journal. When I was a kid I learned in temple the mantra of 'Never again.' But there has been genocide since the Holocaust... There is persecution because of religion and ethnicity. This is a moment to realize that we as a global society have to stand together.
  7. ^ The Cable Center (June 12, 2013). "David Zaslav: Oral and Video Collection Interview". YouTube.
  8. ^ Zaslav, David. "Discovery Communications 2011 Proxy Filing". Securities and Exchange Commission.
  9. ^ "US media mogul tells i24NEWS: Israel recalls what it takes to 'fight for democracy'". i24NEWS. September 15, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Littleton, Cynthia (January 24, 2015). "Industry Heavyweights Support Auschwitz 70th Anniversary Commemoration". Variety. His grandparents and other extended family were fortunate to have fled their homeland before the Nazi extermination campaign began in the early 1940s.
  11. ^ "David Zaslav 2004 Oral and Video History". The Cable Center. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  12. ^ Parker, Garrett (September 1, 2016). "10 Things You Didn't Know About David Zaslav". Money Inc. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  13. ^ a b "David Zaslav biography" (PDF). Discovery. August 2015.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Siklos, Richard (November 17, 2006). "New Chief at Discovery Is 2nd Senior Executive to Leave NBC This Week". The New York Times. ProQuest 433445833. Retrieved May 17, 2021 – via ProQuest.
  15. ^ "David Zaslav". The Emmys. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  16. ^ "David Zaslav - Biography". MarketScreener. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  17. ^ "Manhattan Jewish Historical Initiative, 4th Annual Jewish Hall of Fame Class of 2020". World Liberty TV. May 27, 2021. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  18. ^ "David Zaslav, President and CEO, Discovery Communications". Paley Center. January 21, 2009. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  19. ^ Ahrens, Frank (November 17, 2006). "Discovery Appoints New Chief". The Washington Post.
  20. ^ Goetzl, David (April 24, 2008). "Zaslav Holds To Growth Plan At Discovery". Mediapost. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
  21. ^ Stelter, Brian (March 10, 2010). "Planet Green Moves Away From Its Eco Theme". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  22. ^ Owens, Rob (October 10, 2010). "Tuned In: The Hub Network Offers Programs for Younger Children". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved October 10, 2010.
  23. ^ Stelter, Brian (October 10, 2010). "A Children's Channel Retools". The New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  24. ^ Ahrens, Frank (January 16, 2008). "Discovery, Winfrey to Team Up On Network". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  25. ^ Richmond, Ray (July 29, 2011). "TCA: Discovery Sets Launch Date For Velocity, Adds Big Names to 'Curiosity', Preps Science Channel's 'Trek Nation', Introduces 'Weed' Team". Deadline Hollywood.
  26. ^ Levine, D.M. (April 18, 2011). "Discovery Launches Velocity Channel, Aimed at Rich Men". Adweek.
  27. ^ Ahrens, Frank (November 27, 2007). "Discovery Hopes for Payoff on Crime Channel". The Washington Post.
  28. ^ Szalai, Georg (March 6, 2018). "Discovery Closes Scripps Acquisition, Creating Non-scripted Content Giant". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  29. ^ Barnes, Brooks; Chozick, Amy (August 20, 2012). "Media Companies, Seeing Profit Slip, Push Into Education". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  30. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (April 10, 2018). "Discovery Rebrands Velocity as Motor Trend Network (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  31. ^ "Discovery completes Scripps deal, targets OTT opportunities". Digital TV Europe. March 7, 2018. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  32. ^ Meredith, Sam & Kovach, Steve (May 17, 2021). "AT&T announces $43 billion deal to merge WarnerMedia with Discovery". CNBC. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  33. ^ Hayes, Dade (May 17, 2021). "David Zaslav And John Stankey Outline Plans For Merging Discovery And WarnerMedia, Addressing Future Of Jason Kilar, CNN, Streaming". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  34. ^ Francis, Theo (May 19, 2021). "Discovery Chief Got Options Valued at $190 Million on Eve of AT&T Deal". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved February 5, 2022.
  35. ^ Goldsmith, Jill (May 20, 2021). "Discovery Hands CEO David Zaslav Stock Options Valued At $190M In Contract Extension; Sets Base Salary At $3M, Target Bonus At $20M – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 5, 2022.
  36. ^ "Compensation Information for David M. Zaslav, President and Chief Executive Officer of DISCOVERY INC". Salary.com. Retrieved February 5, 2022.
  37. ^ Graves, Wren (August 23, 2022). "Warner Bros. Discovery Lost $20 Billion in Market Cap Trying to Cut $3 Billion in Costs". Yahoo! News.
  38. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony & Kroll, Justin (August 4, 2022). "The Dish: What's Behind The Batgirl & Scoob! Discard? David Zaslav's Abject Rejection Of Jason Kilar's HBO Max Strategy". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  39. ^ Hughes, William (August 22, 2022). "HBO Max is treating animation fans and creators like hot, burning garbage". The AV Club. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
  40. ^ Steiner, Chelsea (August 21, 2022). "'Infinity Train' Creator Calls Out Warner Bros. Discovery for Removing Animated Series". The Mary Sue. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
  41. ^ Ryan, Danielle (August 21, 2022). "Infinity Train Creator Says Animation Teams Were Given No Warning Before HBO Max Purge". Slashfilm. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
  42. ^ Alberta, Tim (June 2, 2023). "Inside the Meltdown at CNN". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 30, 2023.
  43. ^ Steinberg, Brian (June 6, 2023). "David Zaslav Likes to Gut Cable Networks. CNN Isn't Easily Remodeled". Variety.
  44. ^ "CNN ousts CEO Chris Licht after a brief, tumultuous tenure". AP News. June 7, 2023. Retrieved June 30, 2023.
  45. ^ a b Barnes, Brooks (June 22, 2023). "Plot Twist at Turner Classic Movies Upsets Film Fans". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 24, 2023.
  46. ^ Manfredi, Lucas (May 5, 2023). "David Zaslav Says Studios Don't See Writers' Strike as Cost-Saving Opportunity: 'We Are Not Glad' (Video)". TheWrap. The Wrap News Inc. Archived from the original on May 6, 2023. Retrieved May 5, 2023. We think streaming is going to be very profitable for us. We are unique. We have a lot of scale. We have the largest TV in motion picture library, and we have HBO some of the greatest creatives and we have all of our Discovery content
  47. ^ Maddaus, Gene (May 16, 2023). "WGA Argues Strike Will Cost Studios More Than Settlement". Variety.
  48. ^ Szalai, Georg (September 5, 2023). "Warner Bros. Discovery Says Ongoing Strikes Will Mean $300M-$500M Hit to 2023 Earnings". The Hollywood Reporter.
  49. ^ "Warner Bros. Discovery in talks to merge with Paramount". January 4, 2024.
  50. ^ Ashraf, Haroon (January 4, 2024). "Leading UK universities begin merger talks". Toy World Mag. 360 (9341): 1232. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(02)11309-2. ISSN 0140-6736.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  51. ^ a b c "Seven New Members Elected to University's Board of Trustees". SU News. May 24, 2021. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  52. ^ "Leadership". Discovery, Inc. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  53. ^ "Never Forget: Zaslav, Spielberg Help Commemorate Auschwitz's Liberation". CableFax. January 26, 2015. Driving awareness and remembrance of the Holocaust for future generations is critical, especially as we lose more survivors and witnesses with each passing day.
  54. ^ "Oprah, Wiesel Honor Zaslav at Leadership Awards Dinner". UJA-Federation of New York. April 2, 2012. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  55. ^ "AFTD's Inaugural Hope Rising Benefit". Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. Archived from the original on July 20, 2017. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  56. ^ "David M. Zaslav". The Cable Center. Archived from the original on October 26, 2021. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  57. ^ Gaines, Chip & Gaines, Joanna (May 20, 2022). "David Zaslav: The 100 Most Influential People of 2022". Time. Retrieved November 21, 2022.
  58. ^ Battaglio, Stephen & James, Meg (May 18, 2021). "He ran Animal Planet and HGTV. Now he will oversee WarnerMedia. Who is David Zaslav?". Los Angeles Times.
  59. ^ Legg, Heidi (September 8, 2021). "Media moguls and political donations: We tracked where news executives give their money". USA Today.
  60. ^ "David Zaslav Political Campaign Contributions 2020 Election Cycle". CampaignMoney. Retrieved April 9, 2023.