On Friday a large reorganization for Warner Bros was announced, with two veteran programming execs leaving and a renewed focus on HBO Max. Friday’s restructuring included the announcement that WarnerMedia Entertainment and direct to consumer chairman Bob Greenblatt and content chief and TBS, TNT and TruTV president Kevin Reilly were gone. New WarnerMedia CEO Jason Killar will lead a more streamlined team where HBO Max is led by Andy Forsell, with Casey Bloys in charge of original content. Anne Sarnoff, currently CEO and Chairperson of Warner Bros., will lead the new Studios and Networks Group, which includes all film and TV production.
There was no mention of DC Entertainment specifically other than that it remains under Pam Lifford’s Global Brands and Franchises group, which is still part of the Studios and Networks under Sarnoff. Warner Bros. Interactive also stays with WB, after some rumors that it would be sold off.
You can read the entire memo below, but with theatrical releases on hold while COVID roams unchecked in the US and in lesser numbers elsewhere, WB, like all studios, even Disney, is facing vastly lowered profits. For instance Christopher Nolan’s long awaited Tenet, in the before times a surefire moneymaker for the studio, has been postponed many times for instance, with an opening such as it is later this month. Wonder Woman ’84 has been similarly rescheduled many times.
As Monday dawned, word spread that Warner expected some 600 layoffs, with the emphasis on Warner Bros. for now. Some heavy hitters have already been cut:
The laid off employees include Warner Bros. CFO Kim Williams, Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution president Jeff Schlesinger and Ron Sanders, Warner Bros. president, Worldwide Theatrical Distribution & Home Entertainment and Executive Vice President, International Business Operations.
The pink slips were handed out in departments encompassing film and TV and come in the aftermath of a major restructuring at the company that saw WarnerMedia Entertainment and direct to consumer chairman Bob Greenblatt and content chief and TBS, TNT and TruTV president Kevin Reilly ousted last week. The cuts also follow a series of Hollywood layoffs and furloughs that have affected agencies like CAA and Endeavor and such studios as Universal, Disney and Lionsgate.
I’m already hearing that layoffs are hitting DC, but not how many or which departments.
It’s likely that all the shuffling around with the DC Universe streaming platform we mentioned this morning will also be part of the layoffs and streamlining.
With even Hollywood’s giant studios crippled by COVID-19 — and enhanced unemployment benefits running out for millions — the upheaval and disruption caused by this global pandemic seem far from over.
We’ll update this story as more information becomes available. Below, the memo from Jason Killar.
It has been a little over 90 days since I joined the mission and the team. These past three months have exceeded my already high expectations. As I shared with you recently, my bullishness about our future has only grown as I have gotten to know you much better and as I have gotten to know our company much better. As some of you may recall, I shared three thoughts with you on my first day email:
- That history was filled with examples of special entrepreneurial companies that leaned into moments of great change in order to better serve customers.
- That our taking smart and bold risks is so important to the road ahead. And,
- My belief that missionary companies ultimately shine…and my strong belief that ours is a team filled with missionaries.
With the above as context, I’d like to share some decisions I am announcing today that represent our leaning into this great moment of change, in order to better serve our customers. These changes, which are neither timid nor without risk, are possible in part because we are missionaries that ultimately believe we can and will change the world through story. That is what this all comes back to.
Because of the gift that is the internet, we have what I believe is one of the greatest opportunities in the history of media, which is to deliver our beloved stories and experiences directly to hundreds of millions of consumers across the globe. Earning this ambitious future won’t come easy. To do so, I believe it is vital that we change how we are organized, that we simplify, and that we act boldly and with urgency. The pandemic’s economic pressures and acceleration of direct-to-consumer streaming adoption places an even higher premium on these points.
To accomplish this, we are going to do the following:
- We are elevating HBO Max in the organization and expanding its scope globally.
- We are simplifying how we organize our studios.
- We are creating a consolidated International unit focused on scale and efficiency.
- We are bringing our key commercial activities into one 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 be leading a newly created HBO Max operating business unit and report to me. Andy and his team will be responsible for the product, marketing, consumer engagement and global rollout of HBO Max.
Ann Sarnoff, Warner Bros. Chair and CEO, will be leading our newly created Studios and Networks Group, combining original production (content studios) and programming capabilities currently spread across Warner Bros., HBO, HBO Max, TNT, TBS and TruTV. This group will oversee all WarnerMedia television series and motion picture development, production and programming, partnering with Andy to ensure HBO Max is successful globally.
- Casey Bloys, President HBO Programming, will also be taking on original content responsibilities for HBO Max and the domestic linear networks TNT, TBS, and TruTV. Casey will report to Ann. Casey and the HBO team have done an incredible job over the last several decades delighting consumers with HBO original programming and I am excited for Casey and this expanded team to have an even greater impact on the world.
- The Warner Bros. Motion Pictures Group continues to be led by Chairman Toby Emmerich. Warner Bros. Television Studios group continues to be led 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, Young Adults and Classics business led by Tom Ascheim, all focused on engaging fans with our brands and franchises through games and other interactive experiences.
Gerhard Zeiler, currently Chief Revenue Officer, will now be leading a newly integrated international group comprised of the international operations of Warner Bros., HBO and Turner Networks. This group will be responsible for local execution of all WarnerMedia linear businesses, commercial activities, and regional programming for HBO Max.
Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter and a key leader of HBO Max, will lead the new commercial unit that combines the U.S. advertising sales and distribution groups with our home entertainment and content licensing so that all commercial activities are strategically managed across internal and external customers.
Christy Haubegger, Chief Enterprise Inclusion Officer, will now also oversee the global marketing and communications team including branding and corporate social responsibility, as we bring together all of our efforts around equity and inclusion throughout our business.
Jeff Zucker continues as Chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports. Pascal Desroches (CFO),Rich Tom (CTO), Jim Cummings (CHRO), Priya Dogra (EVP, Strategy and Corporate Development) and Jim Meza (EVP, General Counsel) continue to report to me.
Simplifying our approach and narrowing our focus goes beyond, for example, having one content organization vs two. It also means that we will be reducing the size of our teams, our layers, and our overall workforce. These reductions are not in any way a reflection of the quality of the people impacted nor their work. It is simply a function of the above changes I believe are necessary for WarnerMedia and our collective ability to best serve customers. This is the part that is painful and very hard. It is difficult to find the appropriate words here to say other than that I am very sorry. These are talented, admired leaders and beloved colleagues.
Three of those talented, admired leaders who will be leaving the company are Bob Greenblatt, Kevin Reilly and Keith Cocozza. I want to thank Bob and Kevin for getting us to this point with the integration of HBO and the legacy Turner Networks and 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 tremendous amount of gratitude and thanks to Keith, for not only helping me navigate these last few months at the company – and with the media – but more importantly for his 19 years at the company through its evolution. I have never met a kinder, more collaborative executive in my career. I can’t wait to see how each of these leaders change the world in the years to come.
I realize this is a lot to take in. 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. As each of you take some time to digest the above, I hope that you become more and more energized by how, together, we are boldly leaning into the future and this historic opportunity that is right in front of us. It is an honor to be on this team with each of you.