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Warner Bros. Discovery says it’s done killing shows and movies just for tax write-offs

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Just last month, Warner Bros. Discovery followed up on its decision to cancel Westworld by full-on yanking the show from HBO Max — a drastic, money-saving decision that was yet another part of CEO David Zaslav’s grand plan to get the company back in the black. Now, though, Warner Bros. Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels says the entertainment conglomerate is getting ready to shift gears and put more of its energies into creating new things rather than tearing apart what already exists.

Speaking at Citibank’s annual Communications, Media & Entertainment Conference today, Wiedenfels was adamant about 2023 being a year of “relaunching and building,” Variety reports. Wiedenfels said that Warner Bros. Discovery felt the need to take “a little bit of time to make sure that we do it properly,” in reference to last year’s gradual culling of titles from HBO Max’s library, and that “we’ve come to great solutions” — alluding to the company’s plans for some of its content to move to other services. In order to properly move forward, Wiedendels insisted, WBD had to get its cost-saving cancellations out of the way first.

“That was very important to all of us, to really use 2022 to leave the purchase accounting behind us, leave those initial strategy changes behind us, get it all out there in terms of our restructuring estimates and then be able to turn the page forward,” Wiedendels said. “I think the team has laid a great foundation, and I’m really excited about the growth from here.”

The idea of HBO Max — which is set to become a new service once it fully merges with Discovery Plus — going through a growth spurt sounds a bit dubious after a year of watching the service lose so many of its series. But Wiedenfels said that every cost-cutting measure that Warner Bros. Discovery took in 2022 was “a reflection of an industry that went overboard and went on a spending frenzy” at a time when “there was a lot of thinking of, ‘let’s do more, more, more,’ not necessarily ‘let’s do the exact right things, let’s do what works.’”

It’s certainly nice to hear that WBD doesn’t plan on further scorching the earth with content write-offs as it gears up to launch HBO Max and Discovery’s successor sometime this spring. But Zaslav’s WBD is one that operates like a business focused on profit above anything else, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the write-offs were actually over just yet.

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