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Big names out amid Warner restructure

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar has shaken up the media giant’s structure, with three top execs moving aside and hundreds of job cuts as streaming service HBO Max takes top priority.

Jason Kilar

Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt; Kevin Reilly, chief content officer at HBO Max and president of TNT, TBS and TruTV; and Keith Cocozza, executive VP of corporate marketing and communications, are all leaving WarnerMedia.

Meanwhile, Andy Forssell, general manager of HBO Max, will lead a newly created HBO Max operating business unit and will report to Kilar.

Forssell and his team will be responsible for the product, marketing, consumer engagement and global roll-out of HBO Max.

US reports suggest as many as 800 WarnerMedia staff could be let go, with around 650 people at Warner Bros. and up to 175 staffers at HBO.

Kilar said the restructure was designed to simplify WarnerMedia’s studios business, consolidate its international unit and bring its key commercial activities into one group to operate more strategically as HBO Max rises in importance.

The former Hulu CEO, who joined WarnerMedia just over three months ago, added that the media giant needed to take “smart and bold risks” in order to go direct-to-consumer around the world and react to the pandemic’s economic pressures.

Kilar said the streaming service was being “elevated” in the organisation and would have its scope “expanded globally.”

HBO Max launched in the US in May and is set to expand internationally in 2021, beginning with Latin America.

Ann Sarnoff, Warner Bros chair and CEO, will lead WarnerMedia’s newly created studios and networks group. This combines original production and programming capabilities currently spread across Warner Bros, HBO, HBO Max, TNT, TBS and TruTV.

Kevin Reilly

This group will oversee all WarnerMedia television series and motion picture development, production and programming, partnering with Forssell to “ensure HBO Max is successful globally,” Kilar said.

Casey Bloys, president of programming at HBO, will also take on original content responsibilities for HBO Max and domestic linear networks TNT, TBS and TruTV, reporting to Sarnoff.

Gerhard Zeiler, currently chief revenue officer, will lead a newly integrated international group comprising the international operations of Warner Bros, HBO and Turner Networks. This group will be responsible for the local execution of all WarnerMedia linear businesses and commercial activities as well as regional programming for HBO Max.

The Warner Bros Motion Pictures group will continue to be led by chairman Toby Emmerich, while the Warner Bros Television Studios group will continue to be led by chairman Peter Roth.

Warner Bros Interactive remains part of the studios and networks group, along with its global brands and franchises team, including DC, led by Pam Lifford, and its kids, young adults and classics business, led by Tom Ascheim.

Tony Goncalves, CEO of digital branding and content outfit Otter, will lead the new commercial unit that combines the US advertising sales and distribution groups with its home entertainment and content licensing.

Christy Haubegger, chief enterprise inclusion officer, will now also oversee the global marketing and communications team, including branding and corporate social responsibility.

Jeff Zucker continues as chairman of WarnerMedia news and sports. Execs including chief financial officer Pascal Desroches, chief technology officer Rich Tom and Priya Dogra, executive VP of strategy and corporate development, continue to report to Kilar.

Kilar said: “Simplifying our approach and narrowing our focus goes beyond, for example, having one content organisation versus two. It also means 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.

“I realise 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.”

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