HBO content executive Casey Bloys explains staff restructuring and layoffs in memo

HBO content executive Casey Bloys explains staff restructuring and layoffs in memo

HBO/HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys this afternoon sent a memo to employees outlining Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to lay off 70 employees, or 14% of its workforce, as part of the company’s restructuring. The move, announced this morning, comes as Warner Bros. Discovery prepares to merge HBO Max and Discovery+ into one streamer — with a decision to reduce redundancies in unscripted programming. But a changing business model also led to cuts in scripted child and family plans, casting, international and acquisitions.

“Unfortunately, the environment in which we operate is changing rapidly, and it’s up to us to continue refining our model to chart a course for long-term success,” he wrote in the memo. “As you heard from David Zaslav during our recent earnings conference call, producing top-notch scripted HBO/Max content is critical to the future of WBD. Part of that process involves an honest assessment of what we need to move forward.”

Bloys opened the memo by praising his team for their work, which was especially recognized on the awards front: “First, I want to thank and acknowledge you all for the unprecedented, incredible work you’ve done in all of our programming endeavors,” he wrote “This team has achieved success across an unprecedented range of challenges – from 140 Emmy nominations for our brand to recent coverage hailing HBO Max as one of the best streaming services out there. I applaud your focus and.” Your commitment to excellence during these very uncertain times.”

Monday’s announcement included new roles for Sarah Aubrey, who will now focus on the Max Originals drama roster and work on international programming strategy alongside the Warner Bros. Discovery International team. On the comedy side of HBO Max, the division will now report to Amy Gravitt, HBO’s head of comedy and executive vice president of programming, who will now combine HBO and Max Original Comedy into one team. Suzanna Makkos, who ran HBO Max Comedy, will now report on Gravitt.

Executives affected include Jennifer O’Connell, HBO Max Executive Vice President of Non-Fiction and Live-Action Family Originals; HBO Max Content Acquisitions Executive Vice President Michael Quigley; HBO Max/T-Nets Casting Exec VP Linda Lowy; and HBO Max International Originals Senior VP Jennifer Kim.

Here’s how Bloys described the changes in his memo:

Originals written by Max

Sarah Aubrey will continue to oversee Max Originals dramas, adding a key strategic global role to her responsibilities. Since the platform’s inception, Sarah has been a relentlessly dynamic leader with a diverse and long list of achievements including The Flight Attendant, Peacemaker, And Just Like That…, The Sex Lives of College Girls and The Staircase to name a few. Building on this, and as our company grows in its global endeavors and reach, Sarah’s responsibilities will include working with Gerhard Zeiler and his team to define and execute our international programming strategy. Joey Chavez, EVP Programming, will continue to report to Sarah as head of Max Originals drama and together they will focus on the development and production of tentpole IP series such as Peacemaker, Dune, The Penguin and Green Lantern.

Suzanna Makkos will now report to Amy Gravitt, Head of Comedy and EVP, Programming for HBO. Suzanna has directed an incredibly successful comedy series for Max Originals, spanning from the acclaimed Emmy-winning series Hacks, as well as The Sex Lives of College Girls, Rap Sh!t and Julia, as well as animated series Velma and ‘ Boy love is interrupted. This transition will align our scripted comedy roster under a powerful, genre-defining team; and by uniting that division under Amy, we can maximize our effectiveness as we continue to grow our roster for both the HBO and Max Originals brands. Suzanna will continue to lead Adult Swim’s adult entertainment program.

Aside from Amy now leading a combined HBO/HBO Max comedy group, HBO leadership remains unchanged. Francesca Orsi, HBO’s Head of Drama and EVP Programming, will continue to lead the HBO Originals drama team. Nancy Abraham, EVP Programming, and Lisa Heller, EVP Programming, will continue to lead HBO’s documentary series, and Nina Rosenstein, EVP Programming, will continue to lead our late-night, talk, and specials content.

As we consider offering Discovery content alongside HBO Max for an eventual combined platform, we have had to make the incredibly difficult decision of dissolving or restructuring the following teams, none of which reflect the contributions of the individuals affected here.

Max Originals non-fiction and live-action family originals

Jen O’Connell and her talented team have spearheaded a diverse, impactful and entertaining lineup with titles ranging from competitive series like the Emmy-winning Legendary to FBOY Island, 12 Dates of Christmas and Finding Magic Mike; to documentaries such as Class Action Park, The Way Down and On The Record; and family programs like Gordita Chronicles. I cannot express enough respect for Jen’s talent, vision and passion for inclusive content. Going forward, we will not be adding any new reality/documentary films to the Max list. For existing Max Reality programs, we make renewal decisions based on traditional measures of success.

International Originals, HBO Max

Given Warner Bros. Discovery’s significant international footprint led by Gerhard Zeiler, we will no longer have a US team dedicated to pursuing these opportunities. While 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 want to express my sincere thanks to Jen and her team for all their inspired work. Going forward, similar to HBO for titles like Years and Years, I May Destroy You and My Brilliant Friend, each drama and comedy team will review and track any international co-productions they deem valuable outside of Warner Bros. Discovery .

Casting, HBO Max

To emulate the model that has proven its worth at HBO over the years, we will no longer have a dedicated casting department for Max Originals. Linda Lowy, EVP Casting, is one of the most gifted casting managers in the industry. She and her team are very proud and the impact of their contributions can be seen in the groundbreaking Max Original Series.

Content acquisitions, HBO & HBO max

Here, too, our model will change, with a significant downsizing of the team. This reflects an evolving need as the industry moves away from pay-1 deals and third-party 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 just prior to the launch of the platform, will leave the company. During his tenure at the company, Michael led key acquisition deals – including South Park – and led a talented team based in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles. He was a skillful leader in a changing market and I wish him every success in the future. Royce Battleman, SVP, Content Acquisition, a key member of HBO’s acquisitions team for nearly three decades, will lead the restructured department and will now report to Glenn Whitehead, President, Business Affairs & Production at HBO & HBO Max.

While I am confident that these structural changes will allow us to maintain a thriving business model, these decisions have been extremely painful. We work in an environment where we have to adapt to the demands of the industry and the company in real time. None of this lessens the blow of parting with such talented, trusted, hardworking and celebrated teammates. I extend my deepest appreciation to each of you as you move on to your next opportunity.

More information will follow shortly as I assemble my core team where I can provide more insight into these changes and the way forward, and I will do my best to answer any questions you may have.

Casey

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