July 18, 2019
WarnerMedia July 18 announced the creative, business operations and strategy teams responsible for original programming and acquisitions for HBO Max — the media company’s pending subscription streaming video service launching in early 2020.
The group of veteran executives, who has been involved in developing and producing film and television content for the past 30 years, reports to Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TNT, TBS, and truTV.
HBO Max will feature originals, library and acquired programming totaling more than 10,000 hours of content.
The original programming group tasked with building on the HBO core audience by targeting younger adults as well as kids and families is led by Sarah Aubrey, head of original content.
Her new team includes Joey Chavez, EVP of Original Drama; Jessie Henderson, EVP of Original Feature Films; Jeniffer Kim, SVP of International Originals; Suzanna Makkos, EVP of Original Comedy and Animation; and Jennifer O’Connell, EVP of Original Non-Fiction and Kids.
The business operations and strategy group driving deals and managing the full scope of programming available on the service includes Eric Besner, SVP of Business Development and Strategy; Sandra Dewey, President of Business Operations and Production; Meredith Gertler, EVP of Program Strategy and Planning (who reports into Casey Bloys, president, HBO Programming, with a dual function on HBO Max); and Michael Quigley, EVP of Content Acquisitions and Strategy. Patrick Kelly, EVP of Business Affairs, will report into Dewey.
“HBO Max is committed to delivering IP of the highest quality by closely collaborating with top talent to bring their ideas to life, and then strategically managing that content to build and sustain lasting cultural impact and value,” Reilly said in a statement.
“Kevin has assembled a stellar creative team for new originals and acquisitions that will make our HBO Max service second-to-none,” added Robert Greenblatt, chairman, WarnerMedia Entertainment & Direct-To-Consumer. “With these originals and the full force of the vast WarnerMedia portfolio, including the might of HBO, I couldn’t be more proud of the content we are bringing together across this company that will appeal to everyone in the household.”
In addition to these teams, the development and production groups at HBO — overseen by Casey Bloys, president of programming, and Glenn Whitehead, EVP, business and legal affairs, will also supply HBO Max with a vast array of unparalleled content, with the entirety of HBO’s current slate and extensive library — everything from “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” to “Veep” and “Game of Thrones” — included in the service.
HBO Max will also offer key licensed third-party programming and an array of content that spans across WarnerMedia’s portfolio of brands that includes HBO, Warner Bros., New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Hello Sunshine, Looney Tunes and more.
Max Original series previously announced include:
- “Gossip Girl,” eight years after the original website went dark, a new generation of New York private school teens are introduced to the social surveillance of Gossip Girl.
- “Dune: The Sisterhood,” an adaptation of Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson’s book based in the world created by Frank Herbert’s book Dune, from director Denis Villeneuve
- “Tokyo Vice,” based on Jake Adelstein’s non-fiction first-hand account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police beat starring Ansel Elgort
- “The Flight Attendant,” a one-hour thriller series based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian, which will star Kaley Cuoco, who is also executive producing alongside Greg Berlanti
- “Love Life,” a 10-episode half-hour romantic comedy anthology series starring Anna Kendrick, who will also executive produce alongside Paul Feig
- “Station Eleven,” a postapocalyptic limited series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s international bestseller, adapted by Patrick Somerville and directed by Hiro Murai
- “Made for Love,” a 10-episode, half-hour, straight-to-series adaptation based on the tragicomic novel of the same name by Alissa Nutting, also from Somerville and directed by S.J. Clarkson
- “Gremlins,” an animated series from Warner Bros. Animation and Amblin Entertainment based on the original movie
Deals with Warner Bros. Television and others for HBO Max previously announced include:
- The exclusive streaming rights at launch to all 236 episodes of “Friends” — one of the biggest hits on television and in streaming
- The exclusive streaming rights at launch to all episodes of fan favorites “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and “Pretty Little Liars”
- The exclusive streaming home to a string of new Warner Bros.’ produced dramas for The CW beginning with the fall 2019 season, including the highly-anticipated new DC Entertainment series “Batwoman,” and “Katy Keene” (spinoff of “Riverdale”)
- New exclusive movie production deals with Greg Berlanti, one of Hollywood’s most prolific and successful producers, and Reese Witherspoon, Academy Award and Emmy Award-winning actress and producer; Berlanti will produce an initial four movies focused in the young adult space, while Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine will produce at least two films
The executive leadership team is as follows:
Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content
Aubrey heads up Original Content for HBO Max, presiding over a robust slate that will offer programming options for every audience segment in the household.
Previously, Aubrey was Executive Vice President of Original Programming for TNT, where she played an integral role in the network’s evolution into one of the premier destinations for prestige original dramas such as Patty Jenkins’ “I Am the Night,” “Claws,” “Animal Kingdom” and the award-winning “The Alienist.”
Under her leadership, the number of women holding jobs at the highest levels on the average TNT scripted project more than doubled. TNT also jumped an impressive 320% on the annual GLAAD TV report rankings for LGBTQ representation.
Prior to joining TNT, Sarah was a prolific television and film producer, responsible for such projects as “Friday Night Lights” and “The Leftovers” while at Film 44, and films including “Bad Santa” and “Lars and the Real Girl” before that.
Eric Besner, SVP, Business Development and Strategy
Besner leads large-scale priority content initiatives for HBO Max, overseeing strategic content partnerships, content expansion and innovation, and business operations.
Prior to joining HBO Max, Besner held top positions at Warner Bros., as SVP and head of strategic partnerships for Digital Networks; Spotify, heading up content expansion and acquisition; and Netflix, where he was VP of original programming.
Joey Chavez, EVP, Original Drama
Chavez oversees creative development for HBO Max original drama series, tasked with bringing in distinctive and diverse projects from notable storytellers.
The slate already includes projects from Tokyo Vice, a multilingual crime series written by JT Rogers, starring Ansel Elgort, and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, sci-fi epic Dune: The Sisterhood from writer John Spaihts and director Denis Villeneuve, and an adaptation of the acclaimed novel Station Eleven adapted by Patrick Sommerville and director Hiro Murai.
Prior to joining HBO Max, Chavez served as SVP of Original Programming at TNT, developing such series as the Emmy® Award-winning The Alienist, which was 2018’s #1 new cable series, and the critically-acclaimed, top-ten cable drama Claws, which explores the nuance of race, class, gender and sexual-orientation.
Before joining the WarnerMedia family, Chavez was VP of Drama Development where he was named one of Hollywood Reporter’s 35 under 35 in 2012. Chavez is also a mentor to rising junior executives with the Los Angeles chapter of the Hollywood Radio and Television Society (HRTS).
Sandra Dewey, president, business operations and productions
Dewey serves as head of business operations for HBO Max with oversight of WarnerMedia Entertainment’s business affairs and production teams for HBO Max, TBS, TNT and truTV. Dewey also continues to play a key role in the cable networks’ ongoing transition from a linear television company to omni-platform media brands with numerous revenue streams.
Prior to her current position, Sandra served as Executive Vice President, Head of Business Affairs for Turner Entertainment Networks and Cartoon Network Originals. In that role she was heavily involved with the growth and strategic evolution of the networks’ original programming, as well as its expansion in the global market.
She is also a longtime champion of various gender and diversity initiatives at the company, including her role as the founding member of WarnerMedia’s Feminist Fridays, an initiative dedicated to empowering, informing and mentoring women across the organization.
Meredith Gertler, EVP, program strategy and planning
Meredith Gertler is Executive Vice President, Program Strategy & Planning, responsible for developing programming strategies across HBO Max, HBO and Cinemax streaming and on-demand platforms, and linear networks. In addition, she oversees Program Scheduling, Promotion Planning & Scheduling and Program Planning Operations.
Gertler joined HBO in 2004 on HBO Video’s Marketing team, where she developed and executed strategic business and marketing plans for original programming on DVD.
In January 2009, she was named Vice President, Product Management, Operations & Production for HBO Home Entertainment, responsible for the short and long-term planning and profitability in North America. In 2012, she made the move to Program Strategy & Planning and helped craft the content planning and scheduling framework in support of the launch of the company’s HBO NOW direct-to-consumer product in 2015.
Prior to HBO,Gertler worked in publicity at Miramax Films and account management at the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather.
Jessie Henderson, EVP, original feature films
Henderson heads up creative development and production of original feature films for HBO Max and is developing a film slate designed to appeal to all audience segments.
Prior to HBO Max, Henderson formed and served as co-president of Feigco Entertainment with Paul Feig, where she produced film and television projects including The Golden Globe®-nominated “Spy” and such cultural and critical hits as “A Simple Favor” and “Someone Great.”
She also executive produced the female-led reboot of “Ghostbusters.” Among her upcoming projects include the rom-com anthology series “Love Life,” which will star Anna Kendrick and premiere on HBO Max.
Before her tenure at Feigco, Henderson held positions at Universal Pictures and Chernin Entertainment, where she co-produced “The Heat,” which was 2013’s highest domestic grossing comedy. Earlier in her career, the Emerson College alum worked on such series as “Chappelle’s Show.”
Patrick Kelly, EVP, business affairs
Kelly serves as EVP of Business Affairs, overseeing the day-to-day deal making for HBO Max’s forthcoming slate of Originals.
Reporting to Sandra Dewey, Kelly also continues to play a key role at TBS, TNT and truTV expanding their original programming slate, and works closely with Dewey to formulate business strategy for the networks. Kelly joined Turner in 2002 handling all business affairs for Turner’s entertainment networks, working on such hits as “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” “The Last O.G.,” “Miracle Workers,” “The Alienist” and “Claws.”
Prior to joining Turner in 2002, Kelly was vice president, business affairs, at Columbia TriStar Television (now Sony Pictures Television).
Jeniffer Kim, SVP, international originals
Kim will lead International content development for HBO Max, working in tandem with the U.S. originals team, and will be responsible for finding co-production opportunities in the non-U.S. markets. She will also continue to work on U.S. comedy originals, focusing on comedy standup specials.
Prior to joining HBO Max, Kim served as SVP of Original Programming for TBS, playing an integral role on the rebrand of the network and earning a reputation as a trailblazer, working on such culturally resonant series as “Search Party,” “Angie Tribeca,” “American Dad” and the Emmy®-winning “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” among many others.
Kim began her career in 2002 as a comedy coordinator at Touchstone Television (now ABC Studios), supporting the comedy team from pilot-to-production of new series.
Suzanna Makkos, EVP, original comedy and animation
Makkos leads creative development for comedy and animation, with shows ranging from anthology rom-com series and millennial satire to stand-up comedy specials and new takes on legacy animated properties.
Makkos joins HBO Max from Fox Broadcasting, where she was EVP of Comedy Programming & Development, creating such series as the Golden Globe-winning “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “New Girl,” “The Last Man on Earth,” and “The Mindy Project.”
Makkos began her career in development and current programming at Walt Disney Television/Touchstone Television and Regency Television. She serves on the board of Girls Inc. Los Angeles.
Jennifer O’Connell, EVP, original non-fiction and kids
O’Connell leads original non-fiction and kids programming, developing a unique slate that encompasses live action, animation, scripted and unscripted fare. Expect a broad range from compelling docuseries to children’s-focused projects that leverage WarnerMedia’s portfolio of nostalgic brands.
Before HBO Max, the Lionsgate alum oversaw the development and production of the studio’s unscripted slate across all platforms as EVP and Head of Worldwide Alternative Programming, including TNT’s forthcoming revolutionary “Chasing the Cure” anchored by Ann Curry.
O’Connell has also held positions at NBCU, Core Media Group, Shed Media U.S., Disney Channel and the Family Channel, guiding and developing such projects as the Emmy Award®-winning “The Matthew Shepherd Story,” “The Biggest Loser,” “Who Do You Think You Are,” “The Real Housewives of New York City,” Kevin Hart’s “What the Fit,” and “Selling Sunset.”
O’Connell was recently a mentor for The Hollywood Reporter and Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Women in Entertainment Mentorship program. She is on the Emerson College Alumni Board and has launched an advisory program that links alumni with students studying in Los Angeles.
Michael Quigley, EVP, content acquisitions and strategy
Quigley heads up content acquisitions and strategy and content strategy for HBO Max, an expansion of his role that also includes TBS, TNT and truTV. His focus is on curating and catering programming to a wide range of different audience segments.
He is responsible for buying and licensing the most prized film and television titles from within WarnerMedia’s expansive library, as well as from third-party partners as he builds a profound content offering for HBO Max, as well as TNT, TBS and truTV. Quigley also oversees film acquisitions for HBO. Additionally, he is responsible for programming for TBS, TNT and truTV, and closely collaborates on programming for HBO Max.
In his prior role at WarnerMedia, the seasoned media executive served as EVP of Commercial Operations, Content Strategy and Monetization at Turner and, before that, as SVP of Content Distribution.