Zaslav contacted Scorsese and Spielberg to ease fears around TCM layoffs


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David Zaslav
Olivia Michael | CNBC

Warner Bros. Discovery employees faced another round of layoffs this week, particularly those in the cable-TV network side of the business.

The layoffs affected the company’s vast portfolio of cable-TV networks including the Discovery Channel, Investigation Discovery and the Food Network. The Turner Classic Movie channel also was affected and saw a major leadership shakeup as a result, which prompted concern among cinema fans and people dedicated to film preservation.

Known as TCM, the network is recognized as a place for preservation of classic films and a carefully curated lineup of guest introductions, documentaries and non-English-language movies. Its offerings are among the movies and shows included on Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming app Max.

The shakeup at the network inspired Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav to reach out to top filmmakers — including “Goodfellas” director and film preservation leader Martin Scorsese; Steven Spielberg, the filmmaker behind a trove of Hollywood masterpieces including “Schindler’s List;” and Paul Thomas Anderson, who directed acclaimed hits like “There Will Be Blood” — to reassure them the essence of TCM would not change under new leadership.

“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 trio of filmmakers said in a joint statement. “And while it has never been a financial juggernaut, it has always been a profitable endeavor since its inception.”

Scorsese, Spielberg and Anderson added that Zaslav contacted them regarding the restructuring of TCM, adding they each spent time talking with the CEO, individually and as a group, “and it’s clear that TCM and classic cinema are very important to him. Our primary aim is to ensure that TCM’s programming is untouched and protected.”

Director Steven Spielberg.
Gilbert Flores | Variety | Getty Images

In April, Spielberg and Anderson had a discussion about film preservation efforts at the TCM Classic Film Festival. Zaslav joined them on stage, according to media reports.

A representative for Warner Bros. Discovery declined to comment beyond pointing to the filmmakers’ statement.

The merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery in 2022 created the biggest portfolio of cable-TV networks under one roof during a time of substantial cord cutting as many consumers opt for streaming services. The merger also came when major streaming platforms like Netflix began to see their subscribers plateau and turned their focus from growth to profitability.

Warner Bros. Discovery has been grappling with a hefty debt load stemming from the merger, and has been looking for ways to lower its costs. It has undergone a number of layoffs – which will amount to thousands of employees losing their jobs – as well as other measures, such as reducing content spending.

In addition, the company recently rebranded its flagship streaming service as Max, a combination of its Discovery+ and HBO Max content. Content from its cable-TV networks, including TCM, is featured on the service.

“We are heartened and encouraged by the conversations we’ve had thus far, and we are committed to working together to ensure the continuation of this cultural touchstone that we all treasure,” Scorsese, Spielberg and Anderson said in the statement.

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