UPDATED with Warner Bros Discovery statement: As it prepares for negotiations for a new film and TV contract – and a possible writers strike in May – the WGA West is once again blasting Warner Bros Discovery for going back on its promise that the merger that created the giant media conglomerate last year would create more opportunities for content creators.
“WarnerMedia and Discovery promised that their merger would allow the new company to invest in more original content and create more opportunity for underrepresented storytellers,” the guild said in a statement Monday. “Less than one year after the merger’s close, Warner Bros. Discovery has laid off hundreds of workers and canceled, pulled, or written off $2 billion in content, spotlighting the predictable harms of consolidation.”
“Warner-Discovery is the latest disastrous merger to demonstrate the harms of consolidation, and particularly the threat to diversity when gatekeepers combine to increase their power,” Laura Blum-Smith, the guild’s director of research and public policy, said in a statement. “Almost immediately after closing, Warner Bros. Discovery broke the hollow promises it had made of merger benefits. As a result, writers – including many women and people of color – have lost opportunities and future income, while consumers are left with reduced variety and choice of content.”
Warner Bros Discovery responded later Monday, not commenting on the merger but saying it is “committed to facilitating greater inclusion of underrepresented groups in larger numbers both in front of and behind the camera.”
It added: “While there is always more work to do, we are proud that so many of our diverse creative partners have recently been recognized with Emmys, Golden Globes, GLAAD, and NAACP awards and nominations. And, earlier this month, the WGA itself recognized our shows and diverse writing teams with 14 Writers Guild Award nominations across 12 original titles. We will continue to nurture diverse writing talent and create inclusion across the industry. Our global pipeline programs are dedicated to providing pathways for underrepresented creatives across a variety of categories including writing, music supervision, producing, show running and animation – all with the shared purpose of ensuring more marginalized creatives have an opportunity to learn and earn a place within Warner Bros. Discovery and the industry at large.”
The guild’s latest denunciation of Warner Bros Discovery today comes in the form of a follow-up bulletin to its 2021 report “Broken Promises: Media Mega Mergers and the Case for Antitrust Reform,” which highlighted what the guild called a “failed” U.S. antitrust policy in a review of five mega-mergers in the media and telecommunications industry.
Warner Bros Discovery is one of the major companies represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers that will be bargaining with the WGA for a new film and TV contract later this year. No dates have been set yet for those talks. The guild’s current contract expires May 1, and though a strike is by no means certain, it’s on the top of many industry observers’ and guild members’ minds.