April 5, 2022
Ahead of the official completion of Discovery’s acquisition of WarnerMedia from AT&T and launch of Warner Bros. Discovery on April 11, CEO Jason Kilar has announced his departure — about two years after joining the company. The former Hulu CEO made the announcement April 5 in a memo to WarnerMedia staff. Discovery CEO David Zaslav is expected assume operational control of the new company.
“With the pending transaction with Discovery nearing close, now is the right time to share with each of you that I will be departing this amazing company,” Kilar wrote.
A true believer in digital distribution across alternative channels, Kilar, as CEO of WarnerMedia, streamlined company operations, most notably at Warner Bros., and pushed forward with the controversial decision to release Warner’s entire 2021 theatrical slate concurrently on HBO Max — a strategy that began with Wonder Woman 1984 on Dec. 25, 2020.
While the strategy jumpstarted HBO Max subscriptions and initially appeared not to negatively impact pandemic-era box office revenue, as 2021 rolled on and theaters expanded seating capacity, Warner titles suffered selling tickets.
The decision — driven by shuttered theaters during the pandemic — upended Hollywood’s traditional theatrical window distribution, catching many studio executives and producers — whose compensation was based on theatrical — off guard. Kilar later apologized for not better communicating the strategy to all parties involved.
In his staff memo, Kilar conveyed his love for “this team, this company, and this mission” at WarnerMedia.
“I’ve never been more fulfilled professionally. I’ve never been happier professionally. This team — and what we’ve built together — are the reasons for that.”
Kilar told the staff it had help elevate technology, product, and design to the highest levels at WarnerMedia.
“It has been deeply gratifying to lean into the future alongside each of you and to do so with conviction,” he wrote. “Leading this team has been the honor of my lifetime. My heart is so full, and I am beyond thankful to each of you. There is no better team on the planet, and I will savor every last step as I wander the lot in Burbank several more times this week, with this team on my mind, always.”