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Seventy HBO Max, HBO positions axed amid restructuring of Casey Bloys’ teams

Around 70 positions have been eliminated at the HBO Max and HBO teams sitting under chief content officer Casey Bloys.

Casey Bloys

The job cuts, which represent around 14% of the personnel under Bloys, are across various US-based departments including unscripted and live-action family programming, international originals, casting and content acquisitions.

In a memo to staff, seen by C21, Bloys called the decision to “disband or restructure” the aforementioned teams “incredibly difficult.”

The restructure, which mainly impacts teams at streamer HBO Max, will see the departures of key HBO Max execs Jennifer O’Connell (reality and docs), Jennifer Kim (international originals), Michael Quigley (acquisitions) and Linda Lowy (casting).

In his Monday memo, Bloys commended his teams for their “focus and commitment to excellence through these very uncertain times.”

“Unfortunately, the environment in which we operate is changing rapidly, and it is up to us to continue to refine our model to chart a course for long term success,” he said.

The restructuring comes as Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) head David Zaslav and his team look to find US$3bn in annual savings following the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia, and as the combined entity prepares to roll HBO Max and Discovery+ into a single streaming service, set to go live in the US and Latin America in 2023.

“As you heard from David Zaslav during our last earnings call, producing top-tier HBO/Max scripted content is crucial to WBD’s future. Part of this process involves an honest assessment of what we need moving forward.”

The HBO Max team for non-fiction and live-action family, led by O’Connell, will not add any new reality or documentary titles to its slate, said Bloys. The team previously commissioned reality titles including FBOY Island, 12 Dates of Christmas and Finding Magic Mike, and documentaries such as Class Action Park, The Way Down and On The Record. For HBO Max reality series, Bloys said any renewal decisions would be “based on traditional measures of success.”

The US-based HBO Max team dedicated to international originals is also being disbanded. The team was previously led by Kim, senior VP of international originals for HBO Max, who led the commissioning of coproductions such as It’s a Sin and Sort Of. Bloys said the decision to disband the US-based international originals team was made due to the “sizeable international footprint” of the team under London-based Gerhard Zeiler, who serves as president of WBD International. In future, the individual comedy and drama teams at HBO will handle coproduction projects.

There will be a “significant reduction” in the size of the joint content acquisitions team for HBO and HBO Max, with Quigley, executive VP of content acquisition, departing the company. Royce Battleman, senior VP of content acquisition will lead the newly restructured department and report to Glenn Whitehead, president, business affairs and production for HBO and HBO Max.

HBO Max is also eliminating its in-house casting department, which was previously overseen by Lowy, executive VP of casting.

With the changes, HBO Max’s head of content Sarah Aubrey will see her responsibilities shift slightly. She will continue to oversee the HBO Max original drama slate, while adding international responsibilities to her remit, working alongside international head Zeiler and his team to define a global strategy. Joey Chavez, executive VP of programming for HBO Max drama, will continue to report to Aubrey.

Meanwhile, HBO Max comedy, which had previously fallen under Aubrey’s purview, will shift to be overseen by Amy Gravitt, head of comedy and executive VP of HBO. Gravitt will now oversee a combined comedy group for both HBO and HBO Max.

Bloys said the comedy restructure “will align our scripted comedy slate under one powerhouse, genre-redefining team; and by unifying this department under Amy, we’ll be able to maximise our effectiveness in continuing to build out our slate across both the HBO and Max Originals brand.”

While there has been large upheaval at HBO Max, HBO’s leadership team will remain largely unchanged: Francesca Orsi, HBO’s head of drama and executive VP of programming will continue to lead the HBO Originals drama team; Nancy Abraham, executive VP of programming, and Lisa Heller, executive VP of programming, will continue to lead HBO’s documentary slate; and Nina Rosenstein, executive VP of programming, will continue to lead late-night, talkshows and specials.

Bloys added: “Although I am confident these structural changes will allow us to sustain a thriving business model, these decisions have been extremely painful to make. We operate in an environment where we must adapt in real-time to industry and company exigencies. None of this lessens the blow of parting ways with such talented, trusted, hardworking, and celebrated teammates. I extend to each of them my deepest appreciation as they transition to their next opportunity.

“More to come soon as I’ll gather my core team, where I can provide more insight on these changes and the road ahead, and I will do my best to answer any questions that you may have.”


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