‘Purple Rain,’ ‘Batman’ Among Film-Music Rights Possibly On Block As Debt-Laden WBD Seeks More Cash


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At least some music-publishing rights for Warner Bros.’ deep film and TV catalog – which includes such iconic shows as Purple Rain, Batman, Evita, Casablanca, Rent, and Sweeney Todd – are being shopped for sale by Warner Bros. Discovery

, according to Variety.

The company is seeking to sell up to half the music-publishing assets for its films and TV series for around $500 million, a hefty payout at a crucial time for WBD, Variety reported.

The deal, if consummated, would represent yet another money-raising tactic by WBD CEO David Zaslav and CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels to reduce the company’s staggering debt load, originally $55 billion as part of Discovery Communications’ merger last year with AT&T’s
WarnerMedia unit. A brutal series of layoffs, reorganizations, project cancellations and other maneuvers have reduced the debt load by around $7 billion, but it still remains massive for a company of WBD’s scale.

Selling catalog music rights has become a major trend in recent years, as aging rockers such as David Bowie and Bob Dylan have cashed in nine-figure deals with music publishers and private-equity companies. Even Justin Bieber, though not yet 30, sold his catalog for a reported $200 million earlier this year to Hipgnosis, which has done a number of such acquisitions. Other acts to sell off their song publishing rights and royalties have included Shakira and Imagine Dragons.

So such a maneuver can indeed be lucrative for individual performers seeking one more big payday from their creative work, or perhaps a hefty annuity for their twilight years or descendants.

But the WBD initiative represents something slightly different. Media companies are mostly about accreting libraries and related assets such as music royalties, not selling the seed corn to cover this month’s rent on the farm. Yes, today’s bills get covered, but what about next year’s harvest?

Variety’s story said WBD’s initiative is being handled on Zaslav’s behalf by veteran entertainment attorney Allen Grubman, whose many prominent music clients include Bruce Springsteen. Less clear is what film and TV rights would actually be on the block, and what their true market value might be.

Will it be Sam singingAs Time Goes Byfrom Casablanca, the anthemic title song from Purple Rain, or “Seasons of Lovefrom Rent? Or will it be the considerably more prosaic and less iconic material such as film themes and cues for aging assets that may not have the same commercial exploitability, as Variety suggests may be the case.

The sale conversations are happening as WBD deals with plenty of other headaches: a festering writers strike that has stopped production on shows such as Real Time with Bill Maher and This Week With John Oliver; cuts at TCM that spurred Steven Spielberg and other prominent filmmakers to appeal to Zaslav to protect the classic-movie outlet; and ferment at CNN, where Zaslav recently fired his hand-picked network chief Chris Licht after 15 months of missteps.

The company is also looking at other money-raising tactics, including licensing its older HBO shows to archrival Netflix
. Such a move would represent a big shift in the thinking not only of WBD but most other Hollywood media companies, which in the first few years of the streaming wars kept their older high-profile shows in-house to burnish the appeal of their own streaming services.

But licensing older shows to third-party FAST linear networks or other streaming outlets could be a lucrative way to generate income on shows that, while celebrated in their time, are often overlooked in the algorithms suggesting viewing recommendations on the home streaming service.

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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