Warner Bros. Is Selling Off Your Favorite Franchises

Warner Bros. Discovery is looking to sell music publishing rights for most of their catalog, including Danny Elfman's Batman score and Prince's Purple Rain soundtrack.

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

Warner Bros. Discovery is planning to sell nearly 50% of its film and television music-publishing assets in a deal worth approximately $500 million. The specific assets up for sale have not been disclosed. However, Variety reports that the rights to slightly less than half the catalog will likely be acquired by a major label, with Sony being the frontrunner.

The catalog is believed to include music from various acclaimed films, including Purple Rain, Evita, Sweeney Todd, Rent, several Batman films, and other titles. Additionally, it is presumed to include songs featured in movies like “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca. Attorney Allen Grubman is believed to be overseeing the sale for Warner Discovery CEO David Zaslav.

The news comes at a difficult time for Warner Bros. Discovery as, like many studios, it has navigated the aftermath of the global pandemic, which severely affected the film industry. However, Warner Bros. faced additional complexities due to past decisions made by Zaslav. This included the cancellation of several confirmed projects and even finished products like the Batgirl movie.

Furthermore, concerns related to allegations involving Ezra Miller were not adequately addressed while moving forward with The Flash, which is currently struggling at the box office. Despite the large injection of cash a deal like this would bring to Warner Bros Discovery, industry observers are skeptical as most of the studio’s assets are over 50 years old and are declining in value.

These assets include film themes and cues, with relatively few traditional songs. Consequently, these compositions lack the familiarity and relevance needed to capture the attention of contemporary audiences. Currently, the Warner Bros. Discovery catalog is subject to a multi-year administration agreement with Universal Music Publishing.

Prince’s Purple Rain soundtrack is rumored to be up for sale

Representatives from Warner Bros. Discovery, Sony, and Universal declined to comment when approached by Variety. If the reports are accurate, the deal would be well-received by company investors who have not been happy with recent shake-ups at the studio. This includes the ongoing writer’s strike and recent layoffs across Discovery and Turner brands.

Following the departure of several employees, including the long-serving executive Vice President and general manager Pola Chagnon, who had been with the company for 25 years, an emergency meeting was held between directors Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav to address the matter.

On June 21, the trio issued a statement expressing their optimism regarding the future of TCM (Turner Classic Movies) and its ongoing commitment to honor and curate films from the past century. “Turner Classic Movies has always been more than just a channel. It is truly a precious resource of cinema, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” the statement said.

“And while it has never been a financial juggernaut, it has always been a profitable endeavor since its inception,” the statement continued. The directors also noted that Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav reached out to discuss the reorganization of TCM and acknowledged the challenges that come with managing a large-scale corporation where TCM is just one component in motion.

Additionally, there has been recent controversy surrounding Zaslav’s decision to terminate his personally chosen CEO for CNN, Chris Licht, after just one year, as well as the network’s contentious town hall event featuring former President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the cash generated from such a sale, especially during a thriving market for music catalogs, would enable Warner Bros Discovery to reduce its $49.5 billion debt burden.