WarnerMedia is restructuring its executive ranks under newly installed CEO Jason Kilar.
They are WarnerMedia Entertainment and directly to consumer chairman Bob Greenblatt and content chief and TBS, TNT and TruTV president Kevin Reilly. Instead, the CEO of Bros. Warner Ann Sarnoff will lead a newly expanded content group that spans the entire portfolio. HBO programming president Casey Bloys will now report directly to Sarnoff and extend his comment on HBO Max and WarnerMedia linear cable networks. Kilar detailed the major restructuring in a staff memo on Friday. (Read the memorandum, below.)
As part of the changes, GM HBO Max Andy Forssell will now run a newly established HBO Max business unit operating, reporting directly to Kilar. Sarnoff will oversee a newly established Group of Studios and Networks, which combines content and programming studios across Warner Bros., HBO, HBO Max, TNT, TBS and TruTV. The unit will oversee all WarnerMedia TV series and film development, production and programming.
Bloys will now be loaded with original content tasks on the HBO Max streamer, basic TNT, TBS and TruTV cable networks. Bloys will now report directly to Sarnoff. Sarah Aubrey, who previously oversaw the originals for HBO Max, will now report directly to Bloys instead of Reilly.
Forssell̵7;s promotion comes in the midst of his reunion with Kilar, under whom he worked at Hulu. He served as the content and top distributor of vp on streamer when Kilar was running it-upstart and later took on the role of acting CEO after Kilar left the business in 2013.
The changes put HBO Max at WarnerMedia’s priority and business center, surprisingly not giving veteran Hilar Kilar the upper hand over the products the consumer faces. HBO Max, which launched on May 27, hoped to turn into service many of HBO’s 30 million plus subscribers, which cost the same amount. But the offer added only 1.1 million HBO customers and 3 million retail customers in the first month. Participation was hampered by the company’s ongoing negotiations with Amazon and Roku to bring the app to their connected TV devices. More than two months after launch, HBO Max is still not available on any platform.
WarnerMedia changes arrive as legacy media companies continue to make major executive changes amid a landscape that increasingly places streaming as the top priority. This week, NBCUniversal outlined a similar strategy and folded all business operations under Frances Berwick, while a search continues for an execution to oversee entertainment programming across the Peacock streamer, as well as NBC and the company’s cable network group. ViacomCBS, for its part, has also consolidated its executive ranks over the past year-plus, with Chris McCarthy adding a growing number of networks to his look. The novel’s coronavirus has forced many media heritage companies to tighten costs amid falling profits, with many noting that restructuring should have taken place long before the pandemic created an economic reason to do so.
For his part, Greenblatt joined WarnerMedia a year and a half ago after he retired as head of entertainment at NBC. Reilly has been a longtime WarnerMedia executive and first joined the former Turner as chairman of TBS and TNT. In May 2019, Reilly extended his deal until 2022 and added an additional oversight to his growing control over the company. In recent days, rumors have been circulating that WarnerMedia Bronze was considering an adjustment to HBO Max’s programming strategy, with Reilly under the microscope.
Here is Kilar’s memory:
It has been a little over 90 days since I joined the mission and team. These past three months have exceeded my already high expectations. As I shared with you recently, my appreciation for our future has only increased as I have learned to know you much better and as I have learned to know our company much better. While some of you may recall, I shared with you three thoughts in my first email:
- This story was replete with examples of particular entrepreneurial ventures that bent over moments of great change in order to better serve customers.
- That taking our smart and bold risks is so important to the road ahead. and,
- My belief that missionary companies ultimately excel … and my strong belief that ours is a team full of missionaries.
With the above, as context, I would like to share some of the decisions I am announcing today that represent our bend in this moment of great change, in order to better serve our customers. These changes, which are neither timid nor risk-free, are possible in part because we are missionaries who ultimately believe we can and will change the world through storytelling. This is what turns it all into.
Because of the gift that the internet has, we have what I believe is one of the greatest opportunities in media history, which is to share our beloved stories and experiences directly to hundreds of millions of consumers across the globe. Gaining this ambitious future will not be easy. To do this, I believe it is vital that we change the way we are organized, simplify and act with courage and urgency. The economic pressures of the pandemic and the acceleration of direct adoption to consumers place an even higher premium on these points.
To accomplish this, we will do the following:
- We are raising HBO Max in the organization and expanding its scope globally.
- We are simplifying the way our studios are organized.
- We are creating a consolidated international unit focused on scale and efficiency.
- We are bringing our core business activities into a group to allow us to operate more strategically.
- We are making other structural changes that will help us operate more effectively and efficiently.
Andy Forssell, General Manager of HBO Max, will now lead a newly established business unit and report to me. Andy and his team will be responsible for HBO Max product, marketing, customer engagement and global participation.
Ann Sarnoff, Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO, will be the leader of our newly created Studios and Networks, combining original production (content studios) and programming skills currently prevalent on Warner Bros., HBO, HBO Max, TNT, TBS and TruTV. This group will oversee all WarnerMedia TV series and the development, production and programming of motion pictures, partnering with Andy to ensure that HBO Max is globally successful.
- Casey Bloys, President of HBO Programming, will also assume original responsibility for content for HBO Max and TNT, TBS and TruTV. Casey will report to Ann. Casey and the HBO team have done an incredible job over the last few decades satisfying customers with original HBO programming and I am excited for Casey and this expanded team to have an even greater impact in the world.
- Bros. Group. Motion Pictures continues to be led by Mayor Toby Emmerich. Group Studios Bros. Television Studios continues to be headed by Chairman Peter Roth. Warner Bros. Interactive remains part of the Studios and Networks group, along with our Global Brands and Franchises team including DC led by Pam Lifford, and our Kids, Adult and Adult Classics business led by Tom Ascheim, all focused on fan engagement with our brands and franchise through games and other interactive experiences.
Gerhard Zeiler, currently Chief Revenue Officer, will now lead a newly integrated international group consisting of the international operations of Warner Bros., HBO and Turner Networks. This group will be responsible for the local execution of all WarnerMedia linear businesses, commercial activities and regional programming for HBO Max.
Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter and CEO of HBO Max, will lead the new business unit that combines US advertising and distribution groups with entertainment and licensing of our in-house content so that all business activities are managed strategically, through internal and external clients.
Christy Haubegger, Chief Enterprise Involvement Officer, will now also oversee the global marketing and communication team, including corporate branding and social responsibility, as we combine all our efforts around capital and inclusion across our business.
Jeff Zucker continues as Chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports. Pascal Desroches (CFO), Rich Tom (CTO), Jim Cummings (CHRO), Priya Dogra (EVP, Corporate Strategy and Development) and Jim Meza (EVP, General Counsel) continue to report to me.
Simplifying our approach and narrowing our focus goes beyond, for example, having a content organization vs. two. It also means that we will reduce the size of our teams, our strata and the overall workforce. These reductions are in no way a reflection of the quality of the people affected and their work. It is merely a function of the above changes I believe are essential to WarnerMedia and our collective ability to better serve customers. This is the part that is painful and very difficult. It’s hard to find the right words to say here except what I’m very sorry about. These are talented, admired leaders and beloved colleagues.
Three of those talented, admired leaders who will leave the company are Bob Greenblatt, Kevin Reilly and Keith Cocozza. I want to thank Bob and Kevin for taking us to this point with the integration of HBO and Turner Networks legacy and the launch of HBO Max. It has been such an impressive sequence of events, and we are so much better for it. I also owe a great deal of gratitude and thanks to Keith for not only helping me navigate these last few months at the company – and with the media – but most importantly for his 19 years at the company through its evolution. I have never met a more loving, more cooperative executive in my career. I can’t wait to see how each of these leaders changes the world in the years to come.
I understand that this is too much to get inside. And none of us should expect the above changes to be easy. That said, we are successfully navigating a pandemic, together and I know that, although the above changes may be challenging, we will also successfully manage them as well. As each of you takes some time to digest the above, I hope you become more and more energetic by the way, together, we are boldly relying on the future and this historic opportunity that is right before us. It is an honor to be on this team with each of you.