AT&T’s somewhat recently acquired WarnerMedia division has undergone its latest major restructuring, this one to establish new CEO Jason Kilar’s imprint on the media division.
Bob Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer, and Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max, TNT, TBS and trueTV, will be leaving the company. Also exiting is longtime corporate PR man Keith Cocozza, executive VP of corporate marketing and communications.
Expanding her purview will be Warner Bros. Chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff, who will now lead WarnerMedia's newly created Studios and Networks Group. Sarnoff will add HBO, HBO Max, TNT, TBS and TruTV to her existing job portfolio. Also, Casey Bloys, president of HBO Programming, will now also oversee original content for HBO Max and the domestic linear networks TNT, TBS, and TruTV.
Greenblatt, formerly the top entertainment executive at Showtime and NBC, joined WarnerMedia as recently as March 2019, representing AT&T's biggest media executive hire since it closed on the erstwhile Time Warner Inc. just months prior.
Veteran programming executive Reilly had three years remaining on this contract. But speculation about his fate was swirling after it was revealed that he had met with NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell. NBCU announced its own restructuring Thursday.
AT&T's newly appointed CEO, John Stankey, announced the appointment of former Hulu boss Kilar as WarnerMedia's top executive on April 1, less than two months before the conglomerate's ambitious launch of HBO Max.
As for HBO Max, AT&T said during its Q2 earnings call that the service had signed up 4.1 million users in its first month, putting it on pace to reach the 50 million U.S. customers AT&T had projected for the platform in its first five years.
But from a pandemic that curtailed HBO Max's lofty original series ambitions, to distribution impasses that kept the HBO Max app off the two biggest connected TV platforms, Roku and Amazon Fire TV, the launch has hardly been as "flawless" as Stankey described during that earnings call.
In a note to staff Friday intercepted by numerous Hollywood trades, Kilar listed the reasons for the restructuring, putting "elevating HBO Max in the organization and expanding its scope globally" at the top.
Here's Kilar's entire memo:
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.
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!