Last year, Warner Bros. was acquired by the Discovery Channel, and the resulting merger has been more than a little chaotic. Things got off to a rough start with the sudden cancellation of Batgirl, and has since spiraled into multiple shows getting canceled (some of them not even getting to air) and series getting pulled off HBO Max and sent elsewhere, in addition to the standard post-merger layoffs.
According to Deadline, Senator Liz Warren (D-CA), along with Representatives Pramila Jaypal (D-WA), David Cicilline (D-RI, and Julian Castro (D-TX) have called on the Justice Department (DOJ) to probe into Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD). In a letter recently sent to both DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter and Attorney General Merrick Garland, the four believe that WB has since been “hollowed out” by Discovery, and the merger has enabled the company to “adopt potentially anticompetitive practices that reduce consumer choice and harm workers in affected labor markets.”
Further examples given in the letter include multiple shows that were cancelled by WBD not long after the merger, and those that were previously greenlit but are now basically in development hell, along with the killing of the CNN+ streaming platform. All of those were done in an effort to save money, but the representatives and senator also note that WBD isn’t done quite yet. According to them, there’s $3.5 billion in cuts left before all is said and done.
“[The merger] has enabled the combined WBD to take aggressive measures,” the letter continues, “harming workers and creatives in the media and entertainment industry while eliminating the disciplining forces of competition that provide workers with the freedom to change jobs or negotiate for better pay and working conditions. [...] Cancellations stain these projects, making them less appealing and marketable to other buyers— consumers will likely never be able to watch shows purchased then cancelled by WBD. WBD’s conduct amounts to a de facto “catch and kill” practice, vastly limiting consumer choice.”
The DOJ approved the WBD merger without any issue, but has shown that it’s willing to push back on these things, as we saw last year with Penguin Random House’s attempt acquisition of Simon & Schuster. When that happened, Kanter said that the two companies merging would’ve “reduced competition, decreased author compensation...and ultimately impoverished our democracy.” That statement may be what the four lawmakers are banking on in order to get a full investigation going.
At time of writing, Warner Bros. Discovery hasn’t provided a comment on the matter. The company is expected to have a conference detailing its new direct-to-consumer streaming plan sometime this week. In the meantime, you can read the full letter from the lawmakers here.
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