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Professor Says Discovery’s Batgirl Cancellation Raises Antitrust Concerns

 |  August 18, 2022

A law professor recently warned that Warner Bros. Discovery may be close to breaching antitrust laws following the conglomerate’s stunning cancellation of Batgirl.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, University of Southern California law professor Jonathan Barnett expressed concern about the market power now wielded by the recently merged Warner Bros. Discovery Inc., as well as some of the company’s “post-closing actions.” He also queried the company’s likelihood to act in the best interests of media consumers, saying, “You have to ask if this combined entity has sufficient market share to act unilaterally with respect to the traditional parameters of competition, like pricing and output.”

Texas Democrat Rep. Joaquin Castro also argued the recent spending cuts on content raise antitrust concerns, saying there had “already been large cuts throughout the company and they’re anticipating more.” He also lamented the decision to scrap Batgirl as an opportunity lost for meaningful on-screen representation, stating, “This incredibly gifted Latina actress and wonderful story [will] get thrown down the drain for a tax write-off.”

Mergers are only permitted to go ahead if the deal does not incentivize a company to “withdraw a product that a significant number of customers strongly prefer.” Even before the merger of Warner Bros. and Discovery, lawmakers raised concerns that the move could limit inclusive programming; something which appears to have happened almost immediately with the sudden cancellation of Batgirlfronted by the Latina actor Leslie Grace. WBD scrapped the film after “irredeemable” test screenings, with CEO David Zaslav saying the move was done to “protect the DC brand”. A Warner Bros. Discovery representative later added that the decision to cancel “reflects our leadership’s strategic shift as it relates to the DC universe and HBO Max.”

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