HBO Content Chief Casey Bloys Explains Restructure, Layoffs in Memo

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

“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 during our last earnings call, producing top-tier HBO/Max scripted content is crucial to WBD’s future. Part of this process involves an honest assessment of what we need moving forward.”

Bloys opened the memo by praising his team for their work, which has been recognized particularly on the awards front: “First, I want to thank and acknowledge all of you for the unparalleled, incredible work you’ve done across all of our programming efforts ,” he wrote. “This team has achieved successes over an unprecedented stretch of challenges—from 140 Emmy nominations across our brand to the recent coverage celebrating HBO Max as one of the best streaming services in the market. I commend your focus and commitment to excellence through these very uncertain times.”

Monday’s announcement included new roles for Sarah Aubrey, who will now focus on the Max Originals drama slate and also work in international programming strategy alongside the Warner Bros. Discovery International team. On the HBO Max comedy side, the department will now report to Amy Gravitt, head of comedy and exec VP, programming for HBO, which will now align HBO and Max Original comedy under one team. Suzanne Makkos, who headed up the HBO Max comedy, will now report into Gravitt.

Among the executives impacted are Jennifer O’Connell, HBO Max exec VP of non-fiction and live-action family originals; HBO Max content acquisitions exec VP Michael Quigley; HBO Max/T-Nets casting exec VP Linda Lowy; and HBO Max international originals senior VP Jennifer Kim.

Here is how Bloys described the changes via his memo:

Max Scripted Originals

Sarah Aubrey will continue to oversee the Max Originals drama slate as well as expand her responsibilities to include a key strategic global role. Since the platform’s inception, Sarah has been an indefatigably 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 aspiration and reach, Sarah’s remit will include working alongside Gerhard Zeiler and his team to define and implement our international programming strategy. Joey Chavez, EVP Programming, will continue to report to Sarah as the lead 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.

Suzanne Makos will now report into Amy Gravitt, Head of Comedy and EVP, Programming for HBO. Suzanna has led an incredibly successful comedy slate for Max Originals, punctuated by the acclaimed, Emmy-winning series Hacks, as well as The Sex Lives of College Girls, Rap Sh!t, and Julia, and also animated series including the upcoming Velma and Young Love. This transition will align our scripted comedy slate under one powerhouse, genre-redefining team; and by unifying this department under Amy, we’ll be able to maximize our effectiveness in continuing to build out our slate across both the HBO and Max Originals brands. Suzanna will also continue to lead Adult Swim adult animation programming.

Besides 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 slate, and Nina Rosenstein, EVP Programming, continues to lead our late-night, talk, and specials content.

As we contemplate the Discovery content offering joining HBO Max for an eventual combined platform, we have had to make the incredibly difficult decision to disband or restructure the following teams, none of which reflects the contributions of the individuals impacted here.

Max Originals Non-Fiction & Live-Action Family Originals

Jen O’Connell and her talented team have led a diverse, impactful, and entertaining slate, with titles ranging from competitive 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 programming 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 move forward, we will not add new reality/documentaries to the Max slate. For existing Max reality programming, we will make renewal decisions based on traditional measures of success.

International Originals, HBO Max

In light of Warner Bros. Discovery’s sizable international footprint, led by Gerhard Zeiler, we will no longer have a US team dedicated to pursuing these opportunities. During her time 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 extend my sincere gratitude to Jen and her team for all of their inspired work. Going forward, similar to the model employed at HBO for titles such as 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 may find valuable outside of Warner Bros. Discovery.

Casting, HBO Max

To mirror the model that has proven successful over the years at HBO, we will no longer have an in-house casting department for Max Originals. Linda Lowy, EVP Casting, is one of the most gifted casting executives in the business. She and her team have a great deal to be proud of, and the impact of their contributions can be seen across the breakthrough Max Original series.

Content Acquisitions, HBO & HBO Max

Our model here will also change, with a significant reduction in the size of the team. This reflects an evolving need as the industry moves away from third party Pay 1 deals and 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 shortly before the platform’s launch, will be departing. In his time with the company, Michael spearheaded key acquisition deals—including South Park—and has led a talented team based in Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles. He has been a deft leader in the changing marketplace, and I wish him all future success. Royce Battleman, SVP, Content Acquisition, an essential member of HBO’s Acquisitions team for close to three decades, will lead the newly restructured department and now report to Glenn Whitehead, President, Business Affairs & Production for HBO & HBO Max.

Although I am confident these structural changes will allow us to sustain a thriving business model, these decisions have been extremely painful to make. We operate in an environment where we must adapt in real-time to industry and company requirements. None of this lessens the blow of parting ways with such talented, trusted, hardworking, and celebrated teammates. I extend to each of them my deepest appreciation as they transition to their next opportunity.

More to come soon as I’ll gather my core team, where I can provide more insight on these changes and the road ahead, and I will do my best to answer any questions that you may have.

Casey

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