Bob Greenblatt out at HBO-parent WarnerMedia as larger layoffs loom

WarnerMedia’s new chief executive is wasting no time putting his stamp on the film and TV giant behind “Game of Thrones” and “Aquaman.”

Jason Kilar, best known as founding CEO of Hulu, sent three top WarnerMedia executives packing on Friday after his third month on the job, including Bob Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment. Also exiting is Kevin Reilly, WarnerMedia’s chief content officer, and Keith Cocozza, the executive vice president of marketing and communications.

The shakeup will kick off broader layoffs at Warner Bros. “as early as Monday,” according to a source who said the cuts will hit Warner Bros.’ TV studios group under Peter Roth as well as the motion pictures group under Toby Emmerich. Executives expect the layoffs to help bridge the two divisions, which have been hit hard by production delays and movie theater closures due to the coronavirus.

WarnerMedia did not comment on layoffs, but Kilar hinted at it in a memo to employees on Friday, saying the company’s planned reorganization will help “simplify” the business, which “also means” the company will be “reducing” the “overall workforce.”

Kilar elevated Warner Bros. chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff to oversee its network, film and TV studio and streaming assets. Sarnoff will oversee a newly created Studio and Networks Group that combines original production and programming, including its film studio Warner Bros., and TV networks HBO, TNT, TBS, TruTV, as well as its HBO Max streaming service.

HBO programming president Casey Bloys expanded his role to include oversight of original content for HBO Max and TNT, TBS and TruTV.

Kilar was appointed to his new job by John Stankey, a brash veteran AT&T executive who ran WarnerMedia from June 2018 until May 1. Stankey is known for having dismantled HBO in an effort to unify and launch WarnerMedia’s catch-all streaming service HBO Max.

He hired Greenblatt, a well-known entertainment exec, to oversee HBO Max and WarnerMedia’s broader entertainment portfolio, effectively replacing longtime HBO CEO Richard Plepler. Stankey, who moved to the role of CEO of parent company AT&T on July 1, also hired Kilar, primarily to boost HBO Max.

The streaming service has hit some speed bumps since its launch on May 27, including failing to reach deals with Amazon Fire TV and Roku to be offered on their platforms, which has limited subscriber growth.

WarnerMedia has not broken out subscriber numbers for HBO Max, but said last month that the new service combined with HBO’s streaming service has 36 million US subscribers. In the past six months, the services garnered less than 2 million subscribers, the company said.

Kilar didn’t directly address the paltry growth in his memo Friday but instead tried to rally the troops: “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.”

Filed under