The journey for Zack Snyder’s Justice League from an unfinished final cut to its current location (streaming on HBO Max in all of its four-hour glory) was a long, strange trip filled with numerous twists and turns. No sooner had the Snyder Cut been released when fans of Snyder’s DC adaptations began clamoring for more. The hashtag #RestoreTheSnyderVerse caught fire on social media as fans tried to convince WarnerMedia to continue the story that Snyder had started in Justice League and teased in its final scenes. Personally, I viewed that battle as extremely difficult, and felt that Snyder’s chances were slim, at best. I went so far as to say such things on social media.
I might have been wrong.
This is why you never say “never” in Hollywood, because you simply don’t know what foundational changes might be on the horizon that could swing creative decisions back in your favor. That’s potentially what could be happening as news is hitting the wire that AT&T is looking for an exit strategy to its investment in its media assets (which would include Warner Bros. Studios and the streaming service HBO Max) and just revealed plans for a massive merger with Discovery. According to reports in the trades, this would form a joint venture of WarnerMedia’s assets with the cable channels in Discovery’s portfolios (TLC, Animal Planet, Food Network, HGTV), instantly boosting the offerings on the streaming platforms HBO Max and Discovery Plus.
We immediately ask ourselves, “Could Zaslav be an ally in the push to Restore the SnyderVerse?”
That’s a huge unknown that this stage. Plus, negotiations are still underway, and this deal could fizzle long before it’s finalized. But there are a few things that stood out to me when I read the coverage of this Warner/Discovery merger, AT&T’s exit, and David Zaslav’s ascension to the leadership role of the combined companies. First, Variety notes that Zaslav is considered to be “a strong-willed CEO” who has a reputation for “shifting strategic gears quickly when results are not to his liking.” What happens if he comes in to his new role, sees the worldwide streaming numbers for Zack Snyder’s Justice League (which, so far, have been protected from the public eye), and decides that the SnyderVerse is a worthy franchise to support? Stranger things have happened.
This other piece of reporting caught my eye. The Hollywood Reporter noted that HBO Max lags behind the behemoth Netflix in terms of subscribers -- which makes sense, as it has been around far less time than Netflix. But they also reported that HBO Max spends far less money on original programming than Netflix does, and this merger could change that.
Original programming like… more content from Zack Snyder’s DC universe?
It’s possible, particularly when THR quotes from the Discovery statement on the merger:
The new company will be able to invest in more original content for its streaming services, enhance the programming options across its global linear pay TV and broadcast channels, and offer more innovative video experiences and consumer choices.
Original content lures consumers to streaming services. Netflix would have grown at its own pace, but must-watch television programs like Strangers Things, Orange in the New Black and reruns of The Office helped make Netflix a necessary component of our monthly cable budgets. I have long believed that investing in Snyder’s vision for the DC universe was a smart play, at the very least, for HBO Max. It can coexist with whatever DC is trying to do in theatrical, and build out Snyder’s world in a longer-form story that could include Ben Affleck’s Batman movie, a solo film for Cyborg, and the two Justice League sequels that Snyder has discussed.
This merger news is, by no means, a greenlight for the SnyderVerse. Numerous obstacles still would need to be removed in order for Warner Bros. to go from the aggressively anti-Snyder stance it currently has to a viable partner greeting Zack with open arms. But in a situation where the door on the SnyderVerse was slamming shut, this merger can be viewed as a foot keeping the door ajar -- and giving fans some hope.