Warner Bros Discovery Is Going After Netflix?

By Jennifer Asencio | Published

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There may be a new streaming war brewing as David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros Discovery, has spoken out against streaming giant Netflix. Deadline has revealed that the executive is unhappy with the way the streamer pays producers for their content. This comes as the Warner Bros series The Sandman is finally renewed for a second season.

Warner Bros Discovery content is well-represented on Netflix, from CW and Arrowverse shows such as Supernatural, Riverdale, The Flash, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow to cable-rated series like You and Sweet Tooth. Netflix famously saved the Warner Bros property Manifest from cancellation by picking it up after it was dropped from network television by NBC. The streaming giant and the studio have a deeply intertwined relationship.

Warner Bros Discovery has been seeing a lot of changes as a result of the April 2022 merger of the two companies. Internal restructuring has included naming James Gunn and Peter Safran as co-chairs of DC Studios, and it would seem David Zaslav has turned his attention to its relationships with distributors. Another proposed change involves the streaming platforms HBO Max and Discovery Plus, which are becoming a new, merged streaming service under the CEO’s watch.

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His complaint about Netflix is that the streaming service pays producers over 18 to 24 months after approving a show. The Sandman is a very expensive show to produce, and its recent renewal after a few months of suspense highlighted what David Zaslav considers flaws in the relationship between Netflix and Warner Bros Discovery. Netflix generally renews highly viewed shows shortly after they are released but despite attaining 200 million hours of views in its first 10 days, The Sandman was only renewed last month.

This delay has held the studio in suspense as to whether to proceed with the show or not and now illuminates an aspect of the arrangement between Netflix and Warner Bros Discovery that David Zaslav is questioning. The structure of payments to the studio means that shows may air before they are completely paid for. This is instead of an approach that offers payment on delivery for content being aired on Netflix.

This comes on the heels of Netflix’s new tiered subscriptions that allow ads to be shown during shows whose owners license the privilege. Warner Bros Discovery has received the money from Netflix to pay for this tiered approach, leaving some to wonder why Zaslav has chosen now to make his criticisms. One insider indicated that the CEO had been happy with returns from Netflix so far, but it appears that the circumstances surrounding The Sandman renewal have changed that.

The combination of the restructuring of HBO Max, the prominent presence of Warner Bros shows on Netflix, and the frustrations caused by the payment structure could cause quite a stir in the streaming world if David Zaslav chooses to get aggressive. If Warner Bros Discovery closes its ranks around its own streaming service and pulls away from its relationship with Netflix, which streamer would prevail? With The Sandman renewed for a second season, it seems unlikely that there will be fireworks between the two companies anytime soon, but with the drastic changes being implemented by David Zaslav, things in the streaming world are in a state of unrest.