At the end of a day that saw around 70 (14%) of its divisional staff fired, Casey Bloys, chief content officer for HBO and HBO Max, just emailed his team about cuts as well as its new (former) HBO/Max scripted management team of Amy Gravitt, Francesca Orsi and Sarah Aubrey, which includes new responsibilities for Gravitt and Aubrey.
In the memo (read it in full below), Bloys lays out the responsibilities of its senior script and documentary side executives who remain and also highlights the accomplishments of senior executives who are leaving in the wake of the layoffs: Jennifer O’ Connell, Jennifer Kim; Michael Quigley and Linda Lowy.
“While I am confident that these structural changes will allow us to maintain a successful business model, these decisions have been extremely painful to make,” Bloys wrote. “We operate in an environment where we have to adapt in real time to industry and business requirements. None of this lessens the blow of parting ways with such talented, trustworthy, hardworking, and famous teammates.
Here is his email:
First of all, I want to thank you and all of you for the incredible and unprecedented work you have done in all of our programming efforts. This team has achieved success over an unprecedented series of challenges, from 140 Emmy nominations across our brand to recent coverage celebrating HBO Max as one of the best streaming services around. I salute your focus and commitment to excellence in these very uncertain times.
Unfortunately, the environment in which we operate is rapidly changing and it is up to us to continue to refine our model to chart a course for long-term success. As you heard from David Zaslav on our last earnings call, producing top-notch HBO/Max scripted content is crucial to the future of WBD. Part of this process involves an honest assessment of what we need to move forward.
In order to best align our strengths and strategy with the challenges and opportunities ahead, I am announcing the following organizational changes.
Maximum number of scripted originals
Sarah Aubrey will continue to oversee the Max Originals drama slate and expand its responsibilities to include a key global strategic role. Since the platform’s inception, Sarah has been a tirelessly dynamic leader, with a long and diverse list of successes, including The Stewardess, Peacemaker, and Just Like That…, The Sex Lives of College Girls, and The staircase, among many others. Building on this, and as our company grows in its global aspiration and reach, Sarah’s mission will be to work alongside Gerhard Zeiler and his team to define and execute our international programming strategy. Joey ChavezEVP Programming, will continue to report to Sarah as Head of Drama Max Originals, and together they will focus on the development and production of flagship IP series such as Peacemaker, Dune, The Penguin, and The Green Lantern.
Suzanna Makkos will now report to Amy Gravitt, head of comedy and executive vice president of programming for HBO. Suzanna led a list of incredibly successful comedies for Max Originals, punctuated by the acclaimed and Emmy-winning series hacksas good as The sex life of college girls, Rap Sh!t, and Julia, and also animated series including the next Velma and young love. This transition will align our slate of scripted comedies under one powerful team that is redefining the genre; and by unifying this department under Amy, we will be able to maximize our efficiency by continuing to grow our slate across the HBO and Max Originals brands. Suzanna will also continue to lead Adult Swim’s adult entertainment programming.
Other than Amy now overseeing a combined HBO/HBO Max comedy group, HBO’s leadership remains unchanged. Francesca OrsiHBO’s Head of Drama Programming and EVP will continue to lead the drama team at HBO Originals. Nancy AbrahamEVP programming and Lisa HellerEVP Programming, will continue to lead HBO’s documentary slate, and Nina RosensteinEVP Programming, continues to lead our late night content, talk shows and specials.
As we consider the Discovery content offering joining HBO Max for a possible combined platform, we had to make the incredibly difficult decision to disband or restructure the following teams, none of which reflect the contributions of those affected here.
Max Originals Non-Fiction & Live-Action Family Originals
Jen O’Connelll and his talented team have led a diverse, hard-hitting and entertaining roster, with titles ranging from competition series, including Emmy winner Legendary at FBOY Island, 12 Christmas Datesand Find Magic Mike; to documentaries like Class Action Park, The Way Downand On the file; and family shows such as Chronicles of Gordita. I can’t say enough about my respect for Jen’s talent, vision, and passionate commitment to inclusive content. As we move forward, we will not be adding new realities/documentaries to the Max slate. For existing Max reality programming, we will make renewal decisions based on traditional measures of success.
International Originals, HBO Max
In light of the considerable international footprint of Warner Bros. Discovery, led by Gerhard Zeiler, we will no longer have a dedicated US team to pursue these opportunities. During his time at HBO Max, Jennifer Kim, SVP International Originals, was responsible for programming international content, including the acclaimed limited series It’s A Sin and the Peabody Award-winning Sort Of. I express my sincere gratitude to Jen and her team for all their inspired work. Going forward, similar to the model used at HBO for titles such as Years and years, I can destroy youand my brilliant friendindividual drama and comedy teams will evaluate and pursue any international co-productions they may find of interest outside of Warner Bros. Discovery.
Cast, HBO Max
To reflect the model that has proven successful over the years at HBO, we will no longer have an in-house casting department for Max Originals. Linda Lowy, EVP Casting, is one of the most gifted casting executives in the industry. She and her team have much to be proud of, and the impact of their contributions can be seen through the groundbreaking Max Original series.
Content acquisitions, HBO and HBO Max
Our model here too will change, with a significant reduction in team size. This reflects an ever-changing need as the industry moves away from third-party Pay 1 transactions and acquisitions, and as a business we leverage our own library of the Warner Bros. wallet. Michael Quigley, EVP, Content Acquisition, who joined the HBO Max team shortly before the platform launched, will be leaving. During his tenure with the company, Michael led key acquisition transactions, including South Park– and led a talented team based in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles. He has been a skillful leader in an ever-changing market, and I wish him every success in the future. Royce BattlemanSVP, Content Acquisition, a core member of HBO’s acquisitions team for nearly three decades, will lead the newly restructured department and will now report to Glenn Whitehead, President, Business Affairs and Production for HBO and HBO Max.
Although I am convinced that these structural changes will allow us to maintain a successful 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 business requirements. None of this lessens the blow of parting ways with such talented, trustworthy, hardworking, and famous teammates. I extend to each of them my deepest gratitude as they move on to their next opportunity.
More will follow soon when I reconvene my core team, where I can provide more information on these changes and the road ahead, and will do my best to answer any questions you may have.