In a memo to staff members, HBO Content Chief Casey Bloys explains the restructuring and layoffs.
Casey Bloys, the chief content officer of HBO/HBO Max, delivered a note to staff members this afternoon informing them of Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to fire 70 workers, or 14% of his team, while the firm restructures. The decision was taken to remove redundancies in unscripted programming, and the move, which was revealed this morning, comes as Warner Bros. Discovery gets ready to combine HBO Max and Discovery+ into one streamer. However, a shifting business strategy also resulted in cuts to acquisitions, casting, and scripted family and children’s programming.
In the memo, he stated that because the environment in which we operate is changing so quickly, it is up to us to keep improving our model in order to steer clear of failure in the long run. The future of WBD depends on generating top-tier HBO/Max scripted content, as you heard from David Zaslav during our most recent earnings call. Making an honest appraisal of what we need going forward is a part of this process.
Bloys began the memo by praising his team’s efforts, which have been especially recognized in terms of awards: First of all, he stated, “I want to appreciate and acknowledge everyone for the unmatched, outstanding job you’ve done across all of our programming efforts. This team has triumphed despite an unparalleled number of obstacles, as seen by the 140 Emmy nominations received by our brand as a whole and the recent media attention HBO Max received for being among the greatest streaming services available. I applaud your determination and dedication to excellence in the face of such adversity.
In Monday’s announcement, Sarah Aubrey was given new responsibilities. She will now concentrate on the Max Originals drama lineup and collaborate with the Warner Bros. Discovery Foreign team on international programming strategy. Amy Gravitt, head of comedy and executive VP of programming for HBO, will now be in charge of the HBO Max comedy department, uniting HBO and Max Original comedy under one team. The former head of HBO Max comedy, Suzanna Makkos, will now report to Gravitt.
The affected officials include Michael Quigley, HBO Max’s executive VP of content acquisitions, Linda Lowy, HBO Max/T-Nets casting’s executive VP, and Jennifer O’Connell, HBO Max’s executive VP of non-fiction and live-action family originals.
Bloys characterized the modifications as follows in his memo:
Scripted Originals by Max
Sarah Aubrey’s responsibilities will grow to encompass a significant strategic worldwide role in addition to her continued management of the Max Originals drama slate. Sarah has been a tirelessly vibrant leader for the platform since its start, with a long list of various triumphs that include, among others, The Flight Attendant, Peacemaker, And Just Like That…, The Sex Lives of College Girls, and The Staircase. Sarah’s role will also include collaborating with Gerhard Zeiler and his team to design and implement our international programming strategy as our firm expands in its worldwide ambitions and reach. As the head of Max Originals drama, Joey Chavez, EVP Programming, will continue to report to Sarah. Together, they will concentrate on creating and producing blockbuster IP programs like Peacemaker, Dune, The Penguin, and Green Lantern.
Now, Suzanna Makkos will answer to HBO’s Head of Comedy and EVP, Programming, Amy Gravitt. For Max Originals, Suzanna oversaw a hugely successful comedy slate that included the critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning shows Hacks, The Sex Lives of College Girls, Rap Sh!t, Julia, as well as animated series like the upcoming Velma and Young Love. By uniting this department under Amy, we will be able to maximize our efficiency in continuing to expand our slate across both the HBO and Max Originals brands. This change will combine our scripted comedy slate under one formidable, genre-redefining staff. Suzanna will continue to oversee the adult animation programs on Adult Swim.
Amy is now in charge of a merged HBO/HBO Max comedy group, but HBO leadership is still the same. HBO’s Head of Drama and EVP of Programming, Francesca Orsi, will continue to oversee the HBO Originals drama team. The HBO documentary slate will continue to be led by Lisa Heller and Nancy Abraham, respectively, while our late-night, discussion, and specials programming will continue to be led by Nina Rosenstein, EVP Programming.
We have had to make the exceedingly difficult choice to disband or restructure the following teams, none of which reflect the contributions of the people touched here, as we consider the Discovery content offering joining HBO Max for an eventually unified platform.
Nonfiction & Live-Action Family Originals by Max
With titles like the Emmy-winning competition series Legendary to FBOY Island, 12 Dates of Christmas, and Finding Magic Mike; documentaries like Class Action Park, The Way Down, and On The Record; and family programmings like Gordita Chronicles, Jen O’Connell, and her talented team have led a diverse, significant, and entertaining slate. I can’t express how much I admire Jen’s ability, vision, and fervent dedication to inclusive material. We won’t be adding any more reality/documentaries to the Max slate going ahead. We will decide whether to renew existing Max reality programming using conventional success metrics.
HBO Max, international originals
We will no longer have a U.S. team dedicated to exploring these prospects because of Warner Bros. Discovery’s enormous international footprint, which is overseen by Gerhard Zeiler. Jeniffer Kim, SVP International Originals at HBO Max, was in charge of scheduling international material while there. This included the critically acclaimed limited series It’s A Sin and the Peabody Award-winning Sort Of. My deepest appreciation goes out to Jen and her crew for all of their creative efforts. Moving forward, the individual drama and comedy teams will assess and pursue any international co-productions they may find interesting outside of Warner Bros. Discovery, following a format used at HBO for shows like Years and Years, I May Destroy You, and My Brilliant Friend.
Max Casting, HBO
We will no longer have an internal casting department for Max Originals in order to replicate the strategy that has worked well for HBO over the years. One of the industry’s most talented casting directors is Linda Lowy, EVP Casting. She and her crew have a lot to be proud of, and the groundbreaking Max Original series benefits greatly from their contributions.
HBO and HBO Max’s acquisition of content
The team size will be significantly reduced in this approach, which will also change. As an organization, we leverage our own library from the Warner Bros. portfolio to meet this increasing requirement as the industry moves away from third-party Pay 1 transactions and acquisitions. The HBO Max team will be losing EVP of Content Acquisition Michael Quigley, who joined just before the platform’s debut. Michael has overseen a talented team with offices in Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles during his tenure with the company and has supervised significant acquisition deals, including the purchase of South Park. I wish him every success in the future because he has been a skilled leader in the shifting business. The newly reorganized division will be led by Royce Battleman, SVP, Content Acquisition, who has been an integral component of HBO’s Acquisitions team for almost three decades. He will now answer to Glenn Whitehead, President, Business Affairs & Production for HBO & HBO Max.
Despite my confidence that these structural adjustments would enable us to maintain a successful business model, I must admit that making these choices has been very difficult. We work in a setting where we must instantly adjust to business and industry demands. None of this softens the pain of losing such skilled, dependable, devoted, and well-liked comrades. As they move on to their next chance, I offer each of them my sincere gratitude.
As I assemble my core team, I’ll have more information to share about these changes and the path forward. I’ll also try my best to address any questions you might have.