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WarnerMedia and Discovery join the stampede of businesses leaving Russia


By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

Major media companies continue to join the exodus from Russia, with Discovery and WarnerMedia making announcements on Wednesday about halting all programming in the country.

WarnerMedia, CNN’s parent company, previously paused the release of “The Batman” in Russia, citing the “humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.”

As of Wednesday the company is now “pausing all new business in Russia,” CEO Jason Kilar said in an internal memo. “This includes ceasing broadcast of our channels, halting all new content licensing with Russian entities, and pausing our planned theatrical and games releases.”

WarnerMedia had been broadcasting CNN and Cartoon Network in the country. CNN said on Tuesday that the network is not shutting down its Moscow bureau, “but we have ceased reporting from there until we have assessed the impact of this new law.” The law makes it a crime to disseminate what Russian authorities consider to be “fake” information about the invasion of Ukraine.

Discovery, which has 15 channels in the country, said Wednesday that the channels are going dark as well. “Discovery has decided to suspend the broadcast of all its channels and services in Russia,” the company said.

Discovery and WarnerMedia are preparing to merge this spring.

The statements are part of a much broader corporate shunning of Russia that has escalated in the two weeks since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

While revenues from Russia are minor for diversified global media companies, the symbolism of halting movie releases and suspending programming is major.

Disney CFO Christine McCarthy, speaking at an investor conference on Monday, said “many parts of our business have different relationships or business ventures in Russia” and the region represents about 2 percent of operating income.

“Ukraine is about 10% of that 2%,” McCarthy said. “So, it’s not a significant number for us. I hate losing any operating income. But I just want to put it in context.”

Some streaming services have stopped their streams, too. Amazon said Tuesday that it was “suspending access to Prime Video for customers based in Russia.” Netflix announced the same step last weekend.

Speaking at an investor conference on Tuesday, Netflix CFO Spence Neumann said “we had to make the decision given it’s just a complex operating — business operating dynamic right now between increasing sanctions, challenges with payment issues and overlaying what’s already a pretty complex regulatory market. So it just for us became also just too difficult.”

Neumann cited the “moral” dimension as well and said “the real human suffering is the most important part.”

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