Saturday, August 8, 2020

Senior Executives Out As WarnerMedia Restructures

WarnerMedia’s new boss ousted the leadership of HBO Max, the streaming service that launched less than three months ago, as part of a broader overhaul that aims to simplify how the entertainment giant makes and distributes content, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Chief Executive Jason Kilar said on Friday that he is removing WarnerMedia Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, who oversaw HBO and HBO Max as well as several other cable channels, and Kevin Reilly, who was the unit’s head of content. All of the WarnerMedia production operations are now being rolled into one unit.

The reorganization puts a single person, Warner Bros. Chair and Chief Executive Ann Sarnoff, in charge of all content that will be distributed on the company’s many platforms, from HBO and HBO Max to its cable channels including TNT and TBS. The changes will also mean layoffs, Mr. Kilar said.

Ann Sarnoff
The decision reflects the entertainment industry’s push to slim itself down in a challenging economy and uncertainty over the effects that the coronavirus pandemic is having on television and movie production.

“I realize this is a lot to take in,” Kilar said in a memo to staff. “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, however challenging the above changes may be, we will also successfully navigate them as well.”

Earlier this week, Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal shuffled executive ranks as part of a similar reorganization, and commenced a round of significant layoffs.

The departure of two high-profile executives who were tasked with guiding the much-ballyhooed launch of HBO Max is certain to raise questions about how that platform is faring and whether it would meet the lofty goals AT&T has for it.

Priced at $14.99, HBO Max is more expensive than its rivals including Netflix Inc., Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+ and NBCUniversal’s new Peacock service. While the service has a very large offering of original programming and classic movies and television shows, the higher price tag and consumer confusion over the differences between it and HBO may be making it a hard sell.

About 4.1 million people had activated the new service by the end of June, AT&T disclosed when it released its earnings last month.

In an interview, Mr. Kilar said that he was very pleased with the platform’s start. He also said the decision to remove Messrs. Greenblatt and Reilly shouldn’t be seen as an indictment of their performance at the helm of HBO Max.

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