Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav faced criticism at a recent event due to his involvement in the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike. The strike, affecting numerous shows and films, emerged from stalled negotiations between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the writers’ union, primarily concerning fair writer compensation in streaming and the growing use of artificial intelligence.
Zaslav delivered a commencement address at Boston University’s graduation ceremony on Sunday. The video of his speech has been widely shared online by striking writers, including Mike Scollins from Late Night with Seth Myers.
During Zaslav’s speech, a significant number of attendees in the crowd interrupted him by chanting, “Pay your writers!” The chanting grew so loud at one point that it disrupted his speech for approximately five seconds.
Prior to last year, Zaslav was not widely recognized, but his profile rose significantly when he led the Warner Bros. Discovery merger and assumed the role of CEO. However, his controversial decision-making since then has brought him into the spotlight.
The restructuring of HBO Max, soon to be rebranded as Max, under Zaslav’s leadership received widespread criticism within the industry. The cancellation of the in-progress Batgirl film and the discontinuation, halted development, or disappearance of other shows and films on the platform were particularly notable consequences of the merger.
Zaslav has become the face of every contentious HBO announcement, further damaging his reputation. His statements, including a controversial content policy emphasizing a more “both sides” approach, have been widely derided. From the cancellation of Westworld to the announcement of a Harry Potter reboot series involving J.K. Rowling, his decisions have faced significant backlash. Given the ongoing strike and the frustration directed at the AMPTP, the reaction during his commencement address seemed almost inevitable.