Warner Bros. Discovery Announces Restructuring and Layoffs at HBO Max

After weeks of speculation, Warner Bros. Discovery poised to unveil some of the changes that will be taking place at HBO Max ahead of the expected combination of the HBO Max and Discovery+ streaming services next year. And as expected, HBO Max will downsize its reality programming division.

As part of the changes, approximately 14% of the workforce overseen by Casey Bloys, chief content officer of HBO/HBO Max, will be phased out. That amounts to about 70 employees (from HBO and HBO Max) who will be made redundant during this restructuring.

As part of the changes, Sarah Aubrey, the current head of original content at HBO Max, will now focus her oversight on the Max Originals drama series. As part of the changes, she will now also work in international programming strategy alongside the Warner Bros. Discovery International team, led by Gerhard Zeiler. VP Programming exec Joey Chavez continues to report to Aubrey as lead for Max Originals drama.

As for the comedy side of HBO Max, the department will now report to Amy Gravitt, head of comedy and exec VP, programming for HBO, which will now bring HBO and Max Original comedy under one team. Suzanna Makkos, who directed HBO Max’s comedy, will now report to Gravitt.

As has been intensely speculated, the Max Originals (aka the reality team) nonfiction divisions and live-action family originals divisions will be limited in the new arrangement. HBO Max’s international, acquisition and casting teams will also be impacted by the restructuring. The rest of Bloys’ direct HBO programming reports remain unchanged.

Among the executives affected are Jennifer O’Connell, HBO Max exec VP of nonfiction and live-action family originals; HBO Max content acquisition exec VP Michael Quigley; HBO Max/T-Nets casting executive VP Linda Lowy; and HBO Max International Originals senior VP Jennifer Kim.

In the case of reality, with a combined product soon to include thousands of hours of reality television from the Discovery side, the company didn’t believe there was any point in allowing a group at HBO Max to continue developing and producing the reality when that genre will be well covered. Existing shows like “FBoy Island” will continue to run and there will still be staffers to keep the lights on with such shows.

As for moving away from the kids’ content, it’s part of an acknowledgment that building that business should be done on a much larger scale, and the hunger for that programming on HBO Max doesn’t justify such an investment at this point. .

Other departments involved include HBO Max’s casting group; HBO does not have in-house casting and prefers that the executives have a direct relationship with the casting director. Also the withdrawal of acquisitions, the team doing the third-party library and HBO pays one deals. With HBO’s last third-party pay-one deal with “Avatar” in 2023, and companies getting most of their output in-house, the need for a large acquisition group was no longer necessary. There will be a library and pay two and pay three deals, but most major purchases will go through Warner.

And when downsizing HBO Max’s international team, insiders noted that HBO’s domestic drama and comedy teams would partner with international producers and networks to develop co-productions such as “I May Destroy You”; Aubrey will now be tasked with doing the same for Max.

When in comedy it was decided to combine the HBO and HBO Max teams (while maintaining drama) because the feeling, according to those familiar with the structure, was that the comedy sensibility was much closer together.

As announced by Warner Bros. Discovery, the combined HBO Max/Discovery+ streamer will launch in the US next summer. Conversations about what the service might be called continue, with options to call it “HBO Max” or even just “Max,” with the debate centering on how much brand recognition “HBO” has internationally.

“Ultimately, the only way to make this a viable business was to bring all the content together,” JB Perrette, CEO and president of global streaming and games for Warner Bros. Discovery, analysts said last week during the company’s earnings call. Bringing HBO Max and Discovery+ together aims to reduce churn, so “there’s something for everyone in the household,” he said.

In the second quarter, WBD’s combined HBO Max, HBO and Discovery+ subscribers totaled 92.1 million, 1.7 million more than 90.4 million in the previous quarter. That is an increase of 22% 75.8 million on a pro forma basis compared to a year earlier.

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