IAC's Diller: Studios Should Negotiate With Strikers Sans Netflix, Focus On Reviving Legacy TV

It looks like the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes could end up widening the fault lines between legacy entertainment companies and Netflix and tech rivals in the streaming space, rather than fostering cooperation in the face of a shared crisis. 

According to outspoken IAC Chairman Barry Diller, such a split would be in the best interests of the big Hollywood studio owners when it comes to negotiating with the writers’ and actors’ guilds to try to end the production-halting, prolonged strikes. 

The studios “should certainly get out of the room with their deepest fiercest and almost conclusive enemy, Netflix, and probably with Apple and Amazon, because Netflix is in one business and they are the rulers of the business,” Diller declared during a podcast interview with Kara Swisher this week (ironically, on Apple Podcasts). 

Whereas the studios and the writers and actors should be “natural allies” given their “100 years” of being in business together, “Apple and Amazon Prime are in completely different businesses that have no business model relative to production of movies and television; it’s just something they do to support Prime, or something they do to support their walled garden at Apple,” Diller said. 

The studios should go to the guilds and say, “‘We’re on our own, we’re going to go straight with you directly, we are your savior,’” he added. 

Netflix is an “evil genius” that was “the architect” of the strikes, he asserted. “The strike does one thing, and one thing only: It strengthens Netflix and weakens the others,” because when the new-content pipeline runs dry, it will be “kinda catastrophic” for “old majors” like Disney, NBCUniversal, Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global, but not for Netflix.

“When they have to gear up to make more programming to get back subscribers, they won’t have the revenue base to be able to produce,” he said. 

Diller maintains that the legacy leaders, now scrambling to come up with profitable models in the increasingly inhospitable streaming arena, should return to focusing on their network and cable-TV businesses — which are still profitable despite the acceleration of cord-cutting. 

WBD and Paramount should have left their HBO and Showtime streaming services alone instead of folding them into Max and Paramount+, respectively, he contends. Now, he believes, they need to “reorient” and try to reposition their pay-TV businesses for a viable future. 

Their position, he said, should be: “We each own a great television network, fully distributed in every household in the United States. Let’s go into competition—let’s not treat it as some yesterday’s silver… Let’s take some of our shows and our creativity and build our networks back up. It’s there for the take.” 

At the same time, Diller conceded that it may be too late for such a massive turnabout. 

“Out of consolidation, these businesses are so down the ladder from where they were that I think they have in various ways atrophied,” he said. “There have been and are right now some good leaders of these businesses. But my God, the problems they have.”

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