New WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar announced a shake-up at the company on Friday that will prioritize HBO Max and give greater oversight to Warner Bros. Chairperson/CEO Ann Sarnoff.
He told The Hollywood Reporter the aim is to reorganize and consolidate “content divisions into one unit” that will ultimately report to Sarnoff – putting HBO, HBO Max, TNT, and TBS under her supervision.
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HBO programming president Casey Bloys has been promoted to the content chief of all four entities but he’ll answer to Sarnoff.
Former content chief Kevin Reilly and old chairman Bob Greenblatt were removed from the positions now occupied by Sarnoff and Bloys. Reilly and Greenblatt hadn’t been on the job that long, serving less than two years. Greenblatt was hired only one year ago.
Kilar thinks the move is good for the Warner brand despite the suddenness and the shock it is to observers.
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“I believe it is vital that we change how we are organized, that we simplify, and that we act boldly and with urgency,” he wrote in a staff memo adding change is “neither timid nor without risk.”
He confirmed layoffs will happen but downplayed them. “We’re not talking about layoffs specifically but obviously there will be layoffs just given the nature of what we’re doing here,” Kilar said.
He hopes to make things easier for developing content across the various platforms, but especially HBO Max.
“It became pretty clear that we needed to have one content organization to make it easier for us to make decisions to greenlight the best possible stories that we can then take increasingly direct to consumers,” Kilar stated.
He added the “single content organization led by Ann” should solve the problem and that he doesn’t want to take any steam from the theatrical business.
Kilar sees that as an experience consumers will treasure into the future although he suggested theatrical runs for releases could get shorter.
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It should be noted Kilar has only been on the job for three months. A chief executive at Hulu from 2007 to 2013, he’s never held a position “of this scope before,” as The Washington Post put it.
Ann Sarnoff, conversely, took over at WB after former exec Kevin Tsujihara left his post in disgrace. Coming from Viacom and BBC Worldwide, and reportedly hired on the recommendation of JJ Abrams’ wife (public relations executive Katie McGrath) she is the first woman ever at the top.
Kilar discussed with THR what makes her a good fit in his view. “Ann is incredibly strategic and thoughtful,” he said. “She sees the macro and she thinks about things beyond the 120-minute story.”
Continuing, Kilar said, “She thinks about worlds and franchises and how these things can play and in [the Omnimedia] world. And she’s a selfless leader. She prioritizes WarnerMedia above all else.”
Then, commenting on letting Bob Greenblatt go, he said, “I had to make a very difficult decision once we got to the conclusion of having one content organization rather than two.”
“What made it so hard is that Bob is incredibly gifted,” Kilar added, stressing the level of communication he had with Greenblatt.
“When I think about the last few months, it’s fair to say that Bob and I have had more email conversations and video call conversations than any other executive at WarnerMedia,” he said. Kilar concluded he had to make a decision and he went with Sarnoff, obviously.
We’ll see what comes of this shake-up. It could mean big things for HBO Max but spell bad news for a service perceived as on the bubble, like DC Universe.