Casey Bloys, chief content officer for HBO/HBO Max, sent a note to staff this afternoon, explaining Warner Bros.’ decision. Discovery is laying off 70 employees, or 14% of its workforce, while restructuring the company. The move, announced in the morning, comes as Warner Bros. Discovery to combine HBO Max and Discovery+ into one streaming device – with the decision made to reduce redundancy in unscripted programming. But the changing business model has also led to cuts in child and family written fare, acting tickets, international fare, and takeovers.
“Unfortunately, the environment in which we operate is changing rapidly, and it is up to us to continue improving our model to chart a course for long-term success,” he wrote in the note. “As I heard from David Zaslav during our last earnings call, producing high-level scripted content for HBO/Max is critical to the future of WBD. Part of that process includes an honest assessment of what we need to do going forward.”
Bloys opened the memo by praising his team for their work, which was particularly recognized on the awards front: “First, I’d like to thank you all and appreciate the unparalleled great work you’ve done in all of our programming efforts,” he wrote. “This team has achieved success over an unprecedented range of challenges – from 140 Emmy Award nominations across our brand to recent coverage celebrating HBO Max as one of the best streaming services on the market. I commend your focus and commitment to excellence during these extremely turbulent times.”
Monday’s announcement included new roles for Sarah Aubrey, who will now focus on slate drama Max Originals and also work on international programming strategy alongside the Warner Bros. Discovery International team. On the HBO Max comedy side, the division will now report to Amy Gravett, President of Comedy and Executive Vice President of HBO Programs, who will now coordinate HBO and Max Original comedy under one team. Susanna Makos, who chaired comedy HBO Max, will now report to Gravitt.
Among the executives affected are Jennifer O’Connell, HBO’s Max exec vice president of real-life and real-life family assets. acquisition of HBO Max content with Vice President Michael Quigley; HBO Max/T-Nets casting VP Linda Lowy; and HBO Max International Originals VP Jennifer Kim.
Here is how Bloys described the changes via his note:
Max original texts
Sarah Aubry will continue to oversee the slate of drama Max Originals as well as expand her responsibilities to a key strategic global role. Since the platform’s inception, Sarah has been a dynamic, tireless pioneer, with a diverse and long list of successes including The Flight Attendant, Peacemaker, Just Like…, The Sex Lives of College Girls, and The Staircase, among many others. Accordingly, and as our company grows in its global aspirations and reach, Sarah’s mission will include working alongside Gerhard Zeller and his team to define and implement our international programming strategy. Joey Chavez, Executive Vice President of Programming, will continue to report to Sarah as lead drama Max Originals, and together they will focus on the development and production of IP series such as Peacemaker, Dune, The Penguin, and Green Lantern.
Susanna Makos will now report to Amy Gravett, Head of Comedy and EVP, Programming for HBO. Susanna has led an incredibly successful comedy roster for Max Originals, punctuated by the acclaimed Emmy Award-winning series Hacks, as well as The Sex Lives of College Girls and Rap Sh! t and Julia, as well as animated series including the upcoming Velma and Acne. This transition will align our roster of written comedy under one force, the genre redefining team; By uniting this division under Amy’s direction, we will be able to maximize our effectiveness in continuing to build our roster across both the HBO and Max Originals brand. Susanna will also continue to lead adult swimming animation programs for adults.
In addition to the Emmys who now oversee the HBO/HBO Max joint comedy group, HBO’s leadership remains unchanged. Francesca Orsi, Head of Drama and EVP at HBO, will continue to lead the HBO Originals drama team. Nancy Abraham, EVP Programming, and Lisa Heller, EVP Programming, will continue to lead HBO’s slate of documentaries, and Nina Rosenstein, EVP Programming, continues to lead late night content, speaking, and specials.
As we consider offering Discovery content to eventually join HBO Max for a cross-platform, we had to make the very difficult decision to dissolve or restructure the following teams, none of which reflect the contributions of the individuals affected here.
Max Originals Non-fiction and Reality Family Origins
Jen O’Connell and her talented team have spearheaded a diverse, impactful, and entertaining roster, with titles ranging from competition series including Emmy Award-winning Legendary to FBOY Island, 12 Dates of Christmas and Finding Magic Mike; for documentaries such as Class Action Park, The Way Down, and On The Record; and family programming like Gordita Chronicles. I can’t say enough about my respect for Jen’s talent, vision, and passionate commitment to comprehensive content. As we move forward, we will not be adding new reality/documentaries to Max’s list. For current Max reality programming, we will make renewal decisions based on traditional success metrics.
Global Origins, HBO Max
In light of the large international footprint of Warner Bros. Discovery, led by Gerhard Zeller, we won’t have a dedicated US team to pursue these opportunities. During her tenure at HBO Max, Jeniffer Kim, Senior Vice President of International Assets, was responsible for programming international content including the popular limited series It’s A Sin, and Peabody’s award-winning Sort Of. My sincere gratitude to Jen and her team for all their inspiring work. From now on, similar to the model used by HBO for titles like Years and Years I May Destroy You, My Brilliant Friend, individual drama and comedy teams will be evaluating and following through on any international co-productions they might find valuable outside of Warner’s Discovery Brothers.
Casting, HBO Max
To reflect the model that has proven itself over the years at HBO, we won’t have an in-house casting division for Max Originals. Linda Lowy, Executive Vice President of Casting, is one of the most talented casting executives in the casting industry. She and her team have a lot to be proud of, and the impact of their contributions can be seen across the amazing Max Original series.
Content acquisition, HBO & HBO Max
Our model will change here too, with a significant reduction in team size. This reflects an evolving need as the industry moves away from third-party deals and acquisitions, and as a company, we leverage our own library from the Warner Bros. portfolio. Michael Quigley, EVP, Content Acquisition, who joined the HBO Max team shortly before the platform launched, will be leaving. In his time with the company, Michael led major acquisitions – including South Park – and led a talented team based in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles. He has been an accomplished leader in a changing market, and I wish him every success in the future. Royce Battleman, Senior Vice President, Content Acquisition, a core member of HBO’s acquisition team for nearly three decades, will lead the newly restructured division and is now accountable to Glenn Whitehead, head of business and production for HBO and HBO Max.
While I am confident that these structural changes will allow us to maintain a thriving business model, making these decisions has been very painful. We operate in an environment where we must adapt in real time to industry and corporate requirements. None of this lessens the stress of breaking up with his talented, reliable, hardworking, and famous colleagues. I express my deep appreciation to each of them as they move on to their next opportunity.
More will come soon as I gather my core team, as I can provide more ideas about these changes and the way forward, and I will do my best to answer any questions you may have.