In October of last year, it was surprisingly announced that Warner Bros. had made the abrupt decision to shutter DramaFever due to what they claimed was an increasingly competitive and thus expensive market. Now though, a former DramaFever executive name Chung H. Chang is suing Warner Bros. with allegations of anti-Asian bias and retaliation against him.
In the suit, he alleges that three other Asian-American executives were also terminated on the same day, while four white vice presidents were retained. Chang alleges this was in keeping with a pattern of discriminatory comments he and other Asian-American employees had experienced since the Warner Bros. acquisition. Chang reported to Patty Hirsch, who was hired in March 2018 to run Warner Bros. Digital Labs. Chang claims that when he told Hirsch that he was Korean-American, she said, “Oh, you’re not Chinese?” The suit also states that in a meeting shortly after the acquisition, a Warner Bros. media executive expressed surprise that the Asian-American DramaFever executives did not have accents, and said it was “amazing” how good their English was. Chang also alleges that Hirsch once said Warner Bros. wanted to fill executive roles with “people who could sell,” and named two white executives as examples. “They just wanted people in executive leadership who look and sound like they do, and who the Company believed would present better to Studio executives in Burbank,” the suit states. “In other words, Warner Bros. and Ms. Hirsch sought out White executives who were racially and/or ethnically similar to the existing White leadership at the Company in the biased belief that they would be more effective operating within a similar culture.”
The othering jabs at Asians may not be attention-getting in a lawsuit on their own, but paired with the treatment comparison of Asian and white executives, it’s certainly not difficult to imagine how that might come into play.
The lawsuit also notes that while the currently embattled CEO of Warner Bros. is Asian, that didn’t matter to the people who reported to him.
The suit notes that Warner Bros.’ CEO, Kevin Tsujihara, is Japanese-American. Nevertheless, the suit states that the majority of Warner Bros. executives are white. “Warner Bros.’ culture of permissiveness allowed discrimination against Asian-Americans to go unchecked,” Chang alleges. “High-level White executives at Warner Bros. made offensive race-based comments and discriminated against and retaliated against Asian-Americans even though they reported to an Asian-American CEO.”
Furthermore, it’s claimed that he was punished after he expressed concerns about his treatment, and following his firing and notice of a lawsuit that they engaged in retaliatory activities.
Chang says he raised concerns about how Asian-Americans were treated with Hirsch, and later found his responsibilities were curtailed. After he was laid off, Chang says he retained an attorney and put the company on notice that he would pursue a discrimination claim. At that point, Chang alleges that the company launched an internal probe with the aim of blaming Chang for costly music licensing issues on the OTT service.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. released a short statement pushing back against the claims made in the suit.
“The claims in this case are without merit,” Warner Bros. said in a statement. “We will vigorously defend ourselves and we expect to prevail.”
Obviously it’s difficult to rush to judgment based on what’s been made available so far, but if the claims are true then he seems to have a solid case and it would indeed explain the sudden scrapping of the site that had only been with Warner Bros. for a couple years.