WarnerMedia restructures to focus on HBO Max

WARNERMEDIA executives Bob Greenblatt and Kevin Reilly, who oversaw the creation of the HBO Max streaming business, will leave as part of a broad restructuring focused around the streaming service, the company said on Friday.

The shake-up also includes the consolidation of film and TV studios under Warner Bros Chief Executive Ann Sarnoff.

The restructuring marks the first major action taken by WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, a former Amazon.com executive who built Hulu.

“We’re laser focusing on HBO Max and lifting it up in the organisation,” Kilar said in an interview on Friday.

Andy Forssell, general manager of HBO Max, will now head a newly-created HBO Max operating business unit, Kilar added.

Parent AT&T Inc hired Kilar to take charge at WarnerMedia as it battles with Netflix and Walt Disney’s Disney+ for streaming video customers.

The wireless carrier, which has invested heavily to transform itself into a media and telecommunications conglomerate, reported 36 million subscribers for both its premium TV channel HBO and HBO Max in the second quarter.

Disney+, which launched in November last year, had 60.5 million paying customers as of Monday. Netflix, which launched its streaming service in 2007, ended the second quarter with close to 193 million paying customers globally.

Media companies have been hard hit by severe drops in ad sales as marketers reel in spending due to the global coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic has also halted the production of original material, starving streaming services of new content needed to fuel subscriptions.

Hollywood studios have been forced by the pandemic to find ways to recoup lost sales. Some have released feature films directly to consumers over streaming services.

Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures recently negotiated a deal with cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc to allow the studio to release films directly to consumers after just three weeks in theatres, down from the usual average of three months.

Kilar said WarnerMedia continued to support theatrical releases for films including director Christopher Nolan’s spy action film “Tenet” and “Wonder Woman 1984,” but saw room for change.

“It’s fair to say we all want to lean into the future. If you don’t that’s not a good strategy,” he said. “Where I think that takes us is shorter windows than historically the case.”

AT&T’s revenue from the WarnerMedia segment, including HBO, fell 22.7% to US$6.8 bil (RM28.48 bil) in the second quarter, with the pandemic having a US$1.5 bil impact on sales.

WarnerMedia also said it would cut jobs, without disclosing the number of employees affected. – Aug 8, 2020, Reuters

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