‘Pay Your Writers:’ Students Heckle Warner Bros. CEO During Commencement Speech

Students at Boston University’s graduation ceremony told David Zaslav to “shut up” and turned their backs on him during his speech.
david zaslav at boston university commencement
Screengrab of David Zaslav at Boston University's Commencement. Image Credit: Boston University

Boston University graduates booed David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, as he gave his commencement speech at the university’s graduation ceremony on Sunday. Zaslav gave a speech encouraging students to learn how to get along with “difficult people”—in response, the stadium filled with chants of “Pay your writers!” and “Shut up, Zaslav!”


This comes around three weeks into the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) strike, in which Hollywood writers are demanding livable wages, streaming residuals, guaranteed writer room sizes, and AI transparency production studios.

One viral clip on Twitter shows Zaslav in the middle of giving a speech about being nice to people. “If you want to be successful, you’re going to have to figure out how to get along with everyone,” Zaslav says. “And that includes difficult people.” 

He then falls silent, and students chant back at him, “Pay your writers!” The two waves of chants persist as Zaslav continues to try to give his speech, often successfully interrupting him. 

“Some people…some people will be looking for a fight,” he says. The video then cuts to show him giving a half-hearted thumbs up.

Zaslav graduated from Boston University’s law school in 1985, and was receiving an honorary degree at the ceremony. Instead of responding to the chants and the many students who turned their backs on him, he instead shared his tips and tricks for becoming one of Hollywood’s most powerful executives, encouraging students to “Show up” for the people and things that matter to them. His company, the media conglomerate Warner Bros. Discovery, is worth about $29.7 billion

A group of around 200 students also protested outside the stadium, with signs like “Protect Residuals Not CEOs,” and “F*!# Zaslav! Solidarity with the Writers,” BU Today reported. Boston University had also received backlash after announcing that Zaslav would speak at the ceremony—which it did one day after the WGA went on strike. A WGA East representative told that inviting him was a “poor decision.”

Zaslav told the Hollywood Reporter that, “I am immensely supportive of writers and hope the strike is resolved soon and in a way that they feel recognizes their value.” 

Aside from all this, Zaslav has spent much of the last year mired in controversy as he tries to combine Discovery+ and HBO Max. Under Zaslav's tenure, various films and movies have been unceremoniously canceled or dropped off of the HBO Max streaming service. The company is also about to drop “HBO” from the name, a move that fans worry will ultimately result in a deprioritization of prestige HBO content.