How much money is the “Batdance” worth? Apparently, not as much as Warner Bros. Discovery was hoping. The company is reconsidering a sale of its catalog of film and television-series soundtracks after a disappointing initial round of offers, IndieWire has confirmed.
As first reported by the Financial Times, Warner Bros. Discovery has held informal talks with potential buyers surrounding the copyrights to their soundtrack library over the last several months. Notable soundtracks that WBD owns include the scores to the “Batman” franchise — including Prince’s tie-in album for the 1989 “Batman” movie — the Oscar-winning “Joker” soundtrack, John Williams’ music for the “Harry Potter” franchise, and the legendary musical numbers from 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz.”
WBD’s music holdings are not to be confused with those of the record label Warner Music Group, which was founded as a part of Warner Bros. before getting sold in 2004 after the notorious AOL Time Warner merger; it now operates as a separate entity. WBD continues to own the copyrights for many of the soundtracks produced prior to the spinoff of WMG, and releases the scores for new films under the in-house WaterTower Music label.
Sources close to discussions told IndieWire that WBD CEO David Zaslav and his advisors hoped to receive up to $2 billion for the music catalog. However, potential buyers’ offers were affected by stipulations in negotiations that Warner Bros. Discovery retain control over how certain valuable soundtracks are used. As such, bids topped out around $1.2 to $1.3 billion. A person with knowledge of the talks said the discussions were very preliminary and that “no bankers” were involved.
After the disappointing offers, executives at Warner Bros. Discovery are now reconsidering the sale of their catalog. No final decision has been made, but either selling only part of the catalog or abandoning the plan entirely have both been considered, we’re told. The company wants to retain the rights to at least a few key properties, a source told IndieWire, including the soundtrack to the sitcom “Friends.”
The prospective soundtrack sale is one of many ways that Zaslav has attempted to cut costs and curb the debt accrued by Warner Bros. Discovery, which formed in April 2022. The merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery cost $40 billion; gross debt measured at $49.5 billion as of the most recent quarter.
Since the closure of the merger, WBD has repaid $7 billion in debt through somewhat-controversial methods including cuts in streaming content and several rounds of layoffs affecting various departments.
Tony Maglio contributed reporting.