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Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav to meet skittish CNN anchors after merger

Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav is rushing to meet employees across the newly created media giant amid fears of widespread layoffs — and festering anger over ex-CNN boss Jeff Zucker’s ouster. Zaslav, who led Discovery, home to Animal Planet, TLC and HGTV, is projected to unearth at least $3 billion in synergies in 2023 from the deal that closed on Friday — and media watchers have pinpointed CNN and streaming as areas for cutting at the newly acquired WarnerMedia. According to Mediaite, staffers at CNN’s DC bureau, which is home to anchors like Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, Jim Acosta and Wolf Blitzer, are hopeful that meetings with Zaslav will go better than last month’s virtual pow-wow with former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar. Kilar’s tense virtual meeting with CNN’s New York anchors came in the immediate aftermath of the ouster of Zucker and ongoing turmoil surrounding Chris Cuomo’s exit from the network. According a report by the Wall Street Journal, multiple anchors demanded answers about Zucker’s exit and expressed anger about the possibility that Cuomo might get the severance he was demanding, getting “paid handsomely” despite breaking journalistic standards related to coverage of the troubled end of his brother Andrew Cuomo’s tenure as Governor of New York. Zaslav replaced Zucker with Chris Licht, an executive producer with stints at MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and most recently at “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Last week, Kilar exited WarnerMedia, along with a slew of execs as Discovery prepared to take its throne. “We want to hear that he’s going to let us do our jobs,” a CNN insider told Mediaite when asked about their expectations for the meeting with Zaslav. An insider contradicted a report from TheWrap that Zaslav will be holding “town hall” meetings to address cost savings and impending layoffs, which have spooked WarnerMedia staffers in the months leading up to Friday’s close of the $43 billion merger. The source said Zaslav isn’t planning a speech, adding that the tour will be “casual.” “There will be no remarks, there may be food,” the source said. According to one insider, the CEO will kick off a “meet and greet tour” on Monday at the New York offices of WarnerMedia at Hudson Yards, home to CNN, which was rocked by the fallout of CNN boss Jeff Zucker’s resignation in February. He will then head to Atlanta on Tuesday, where CNN is headquartered and later stop by the company’s Washington DC offices. The tour will include WarnerMedia’s HBO offices in Los Angeles on Wednesday and wrap up at WarnerMedia’s offices on the Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burbank, Calif. Shares of Warner Bros. Discovery began trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol “WBD” on Monday, opening at $24.08 a share. In early-day trading, the company’s stock surged 7.5% juiced by an upgrade by Evercore Group. The firm upgraded the stock from “In-line” to “Outperform” and announced a $40 price target. Evercore analyst Vijay Jayant said that combined firm is now the second-largest media company after Disney in terms of revenue. He added that it has the assets, such as the “Harry Potter” and “Batman” franchises “to successfully compete” in the global streaming race currently led by Netflix and Disney+.

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