WarnerMedia, Disney Join Netflix in Threatening to Leave Georgia

(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia, Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal and Walt Disney Co. are following Netflix Inc.’s lead in threatening to leave Georgia if a controversial anti-abortion law takes effect.

WarnerMedia -- owner of HBO, CNN and the Warner Bros. studio -- said on Thursday that it will “reconsider Georgia as the home to any new productions” if the restrictions become law. That echoed remarks made by Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger on Wednesday. He told Reuters it would be “very difficult” to keep film production in the state if abortion ban is upheld.

“I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard,” he said. “Right now we are watching it very carefully.”

WarnerMedia, Disney Join Netflix in Threatening to Leave Georgia

Netflix Inc. said earlier this week that it would reconsider its “entire investment” in Georgia, where it has filmed “Stranger Things” and “Ozark,” if the law survives legal challenges.

“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said on Tuesday. “Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”

Other states, including Louisiana, are pursuing their own so-called heartbeat bills. NBCUniversal said the laws could ultimately affect its decisions over where to film.

“We fully expect that the heartbeat bills and similar laws in various states will face serious legal challenges and will not go into effect while the process proceeds in court,” the entertainment company said in an emailed statement. “If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future.”

Georgia has some of the most generous film and TV subsidies in the country, and it’s become the biggest U.S. hub for production. Disney shot several of its biggest recent hits there, including “Avengers: Endgame” and “Black Panther.” The Georgia Department of Economic Development, which includes the state’s film office, declined to comment.

WarnerMedia’s Turner Broadcasting, meanwhile, is based in Atlanta -- Georgia’s largest city.

‘Respect Due Process’

“We operate and produce work in many states and within several countries at any given time and while that doesn’t mean we agree with every position taken by a state or a country and their leaders, we do respect due process,” the company said. “As is always the case, we will work closely with our production partners and talent to determine how and where to shoot any given project.”

The Georgia law would ban abortions once a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat -- typically about six weeks into a pregnancy. It makes an exception to prevent death or serious harm to the woman or in cases of rape or incest where a police report was filed.

AMC Networks Inc., which shoots “The Walking Dead” in Georgia, said it may change plans if the law moves forward.

“If this highly restrictive legislation goes into effect, we will re-evaluate our activity in Georgia,” the company said. “Similar bills -- some even more restrictive -- have passed in multiple states and have been challenged. This is likely to be a long and complicated fight, and we are watching it all very closely.”

Wait-and-See Mode

The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the studios, is also taking a wait-and-see approach.

“The outcome in Georgia will also be determined through the legal process,” the organization said. “We will continue to monitor developments.”

Sony Pictures, the studio behind the “Spider-Man” and “Jumanji” movies, echoed that view.

“We will continue to monitor that process in close consultation with our filmmakers and television showrunners, talent and other stakeholders,” the studio said, “as we consider our future production options.”

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