“Unfortunately, the environment in which we operate is changing rapidly, and it is up to us to continue to refine our model to chart a course for long-term success,” he wrote in the memo. “As you heard from David Zaslav on our last call for profit, producing high-quality HBO/Max scripted content is critical to the future of WBD. Part of this process is 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 recognize you all for the unparalleled, incredible work you have done in all of our programming efforts. ,” he wrote. “This team has achieved success in an unprecedented range of challenges – from 140 Emmy nominations for our brand to the recent coverage celebrating HBO Max as one of the best streaming services on the market. I commend your focus and dedication of excellence in these very uncertain times.”
Monday’s announcement included new roles for Sarah Aubrey, who will now focus on the Max Originals drama series and also work in international programming strategy alongside the Warner Bros. Discovery International team. 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.
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.
Here’s how Bloys described the changes via his memo:
Max. scripted originals
Sarah Aubrey will continue to oversee the Max Originals drama series and expand her responsibilities with a key strategic global role. Since the platform’s inception, Sarah has been a tirelessly dynamic leader, with a diverse and long list of successes including The Flight Attendant, 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 ambition and reach, Sarah will work with Gerhard Zeiler and his team, among others, to define and implement our international programming strategy. Joey Chavez, EVP Programming, will continue to report to Sarah as the lead actor for Max Originals drama, and together they will focus on developing and producing 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 led an incredibly successful comedy series for Max Originals, punctuated by the critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning series Hacks, as well as The Sex Lives of College Girls, Rap Sh!t and Julia, as well as animated series including the upcoming Velma and Young Love. This transition will align our scripted comedy under one powerful, genre-redefining team; and by uniting this division under Amy, we can maximize our effectiveness in further building our slate for both the HBO and Max Originals brands. Suzanna will also continue to lead the adult entertainment programs for Adult Swim.
Aside from Amy now overseeing 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 special content.
As we consider adding the Discovery content offering to HBO Max for an eventual combined platform, we’ve had to make the incredibly difficult decision to disband or restructure the following teams, none of which reflect the contributions of the individuals here affected.
Max Originals Nonfiction and Live-Action Family Originals
Jen O’Connell and her talented team have led a diverse, impressive and entertaining series, with titles ranging from competition series including 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 such as Gordita Chronicles. I can’t say enough about my respect for Jen’s talent, vision and passionate commitment to inclusive content. As we progress we will not be adding any new reality/documentaries to the Max slate. For existing Max reality programming, we will make innovation decisions based on traditional measures of success.
International Originals, HBO Max
In light of the extensive international presence of Warner Bros. Discovery, led by Gerhard Zeiler, we will no longer have an American team dedicated to pursuing these opportunities. During her time at HBO Max, Jeniffer Kim, SVP International Originals, was responsible for programming international content, including the critically acclaimed limited series It’s A Sin and the Peabody Award-winning Sort Of. I extend my sincere thanks to Jen and her team for all their inspired work. Going forward, similar to the model used at HBO for titles like Years and Years, I May Destroy You and My Brilliant Friend, the individual drama and comedy teams will evaluate and pursue any international co-productions they find valuable outside of Warner. brothers. Discovery.
Casting, HBO Max
To reflect the model who has proven successful at HBO over the years, we will no longer have an in-house casting department for Max Originals. Linda Lowy, EVP Casting, is one of the most gifted casting managers in the industry. She and her team have much to be proud of, 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 reduction in the size of the team. This reflects a changing need as the industry moves away from Pay 1 deals and third-party acquisitions, and as a company we leverage our proprietary library from the Warner Bros. portfolio. Michael Quigley, EVP, Content Acquisition, who joined the HBO Max team shortly before the platform’s launch, is leaving. During his time with the company, Michael led major acquisition deals, including South Park, and led a talented team in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles. He has been an agile leader in the 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 newly restructured division and now report to Glenn Whitehead, President, Business Affairs & Production for HBO & HBO Max.
While I am confident that these structural changes will allow us to maintain a thriving business model, these decisions were extremely painful to make. We operate in an environment where we have to adapt in real time to the demands of the industry and the company. None of this lessens the blow of parting with such talented, trusted, hardworking and celebrated teammates. I extend my deepest appreciation to each of them as they transition to their next opportunity.
More coming soon as I will be gathering my core team where I can provide more insight into these changes and the road ahead and I will do my best to answer any questions you may have.