Strong retail sales of Warner Bros.’ ocean-based superhero Aquaman contributed to the studio increasing second-quarter (ended June 30) operating income 30% to $440 million from operating income of $338 million during the previous-year period.
Video game (which included the Mortal Kombat 11 release) and home entertainment revenue increased nearly 28% to $552 million from $432 million a year ago.
Theatrical revenue grew 13.4% to $1.52 billion from $1.34 billion last year. Television product revenue decreased almost 15% to $1.31 billion compared to $1.53 billion last year.
The decrease was primarily due to lower licensing revenue as parent company WarnerMedia holds back content from third parties such as Netflix for its pending subscription streaming video service, HBO Max.
Total WB studio revenue increased 2.5% to $3.39 billion compared with $3.3 billion last year.
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.
After disappointing Q2 subscriber growth numbers, Netflix senior management on the fiscal webcast took the high road deflecting the subscription streaming service’s first domestic quarterly decline (since 2011) while adding only half of projected international subs.
CEO Reed Hastings said it might be easy to “over-interpret” the lack of sub growth but that under similar circumstances three years ago management also could not be confident of any specific reason for the slowdown.
“Then, we were $2 billion in quarterly revenue,” Hasting said. “Now, we’re $5 billion. We’re just executing forward and trying to do the best forecast we can.”
When Netflix launched streaming video 12 years ago, there were three competitors (Hulu, Amazon and YouTube). Now, media giants NBC Universal, Disney, Apple and WarnerMedia are launching high-profile competitors – and taking their Netflix-licensed content with them.
Regardless, Hastings said Netflix remains in excellent position as the No.1 SVOD service in the world with more than 151 million subs.
“If investors believe in Internet television … then our position in that market is very strong,” he said.
Chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the service continues to focus on creating original content developed in local markets with global appeal.
He said recent releases “How to Sell Drugs Online” (Germany), “The Rain” season 2 from Denmark and “Quicksand” from Sweden, have generated upwards of 15 million combined viewers globally.
Netflix is expecting a similar reception to the second season of India’s “Sacred Games,” which launches this quarter.
“What’s been amazing is [that the shows have] been deeply relevant in the home country, traveled the region very well and found global audiences,” Sarandos said.
With WarnerMedia set to launch SVOD competitor “HBO Max” in early 2020, it was interesting to hear Netflix brass sing praise for the venerable premium pay-TV channel. Indeed, Hastings said most Netflix employees subscribe to HBO.
“We love the content they do and that spurs us on to want to be even better,” he said. “So, it’s a great competition that helps grow the industry.”
Sarandos congratulated HBO for re-taking the Primetime Emmy Award nominations title, which Netflix claimed from the network for the first time in 2018 after 17 years.
“They continue to be the gold standard that we chase, and we’re really thrilled for them,” Sarandos said.
Although the proportion of Internet users in Europe who have a SVOD subscription is lower than in the U.S., there continues to be healthy sub growth across the Atlantic.
“The growth in SVOD subscribers in both regions will come as welcome news, particularly to those looking to enter the market this year such as Disney and Apple as it shows there is still room for growth and the opportunity to take a share of the revenue,” Minal Modha, consumer research lead at Ampere, said in a statement.
Indeed, about 80% of Internet users in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have at least one SVOD subscription. Japan and France are the only countries where fewer than 50% have a subscription.
Subscriptions are being driven by younger demographics, with those under 35 over-indexing in each market except Saudi Arabia where it is driven by those aged 45 years and over.
All but two markets analyzed enjoyed subscriber growth between Q3 2018 and Q1 2019, with Saudi Arabia (+8.1%), Australia (+6.8%) and Denmark (+6.3%) spearheading expansion.
The Netherlands and Japan are the only markets where subscriber growth has stagnated since Q3 2018.
WarnerMedia July 9 unveiled HBO Max as the name of its new subscription streaming service launching in 2020.
The service will be anchored by HBO and will be “Maximized” with an extensive collection of exclusive original programming (Max Originals) and the best-of-the-best from WarnerMedia’s portfolio of brands and content libraries.
New deals with Warner Bros. Television and others for HBO Max announced include exclusive streaming rights at launch to all 236 episodes of “Friends” — one of the biggest hits on television and in streaming (currently on Netflix).
The exclusive streaming rights at launch to all episodes of “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 new DC Entertainment series “Batwoman” and “Katy Keene” (a spinoff of “Riverdale”).
New exclusive movie production deals with Greg Berlanti and Reese Witherspoon.
Berlanti will produce an initial four movies focused in the young adult space, while Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine will produce at least two films.
HBO Max, scheduled to launch commercially in spring of 2020, is anticipated to premiere with 10,000 hours of premium content.
“HBO Max will bring together the diverse riches of WarnerMedia to create programming and user experiences not seen before in a streaming platform. HBO’s world-class programming leads the way, the quality of which will be the guiding principle for our new array of Max Originals, our exciting acquisitions, and the very best of the Warner Bros. libraries, starting with the phenomenon that is ‘Friends,’” Robert Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer, said in a statement.
“Under the leadership of two of the strongest creative visionaries — Casey Bloys (HBO) and Kevin Reilly (original content and acquisitions) — and two of the most experienced digital experts — Tony Goncalves and Andy Forssell — I have no doubt they and their dedicated teams will deliver the world’s best storytelling to audiences of all ages wherever and whenever they want it.”
Max Original series previously announced include:
“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 Berlanti.
“Love Life,” a 10-episode half-hour romantic comedy anthology series starring “Pitch Perfect” star Anna Kendrick, who will also executive produce alongside Paul Feig.
“Station Eleven,” a post-apocalyptic 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.
Highlights of HBO programming previously announced for 2020 and 2021 include:
Stephen King’s “The Outsider,” a dark mystery starring Ben Mendelsohn, produced and directed by Jason Bateman.
“Lovecraft Country,” a unique horror series based on a novel by Matt Ruff, written and executive produced by Misha Green, and executive produced by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams.
“The Nevers,” Joss Whedon’s new science fiction series starring Laura Donnelly.
“The Gilded Age,” the opulent world of 1885 New York from “Downton Abbey’s” Julian Fellowes.
“Avenue 5,” high satire aboard a space-bound cruise ship from Armando Iannucci (“Veep”), starring Hugh Laurie and Josh Gad.
“The Undoing,” a psychological thriller from David E. Kelley, directed by Susanne Bier starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant.
“The Plot Against America,” reimagined history based on Phillip Roth’s novel written and executive produced by David Simon and Ed Burns, starring Winona Ryder and John Turturro.
“Perry Mason,” the classic legal drama for a new generation, executive produced by Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey, with Matthew Rhys in the title role.
“I Know This Much Is True,” a complex family drama starring Mark Ruffalo playing twin brothers, one of whom has schizophrenia, based on the best-selling novel by Wally Lamb, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance.
Casey Bloys, programming president of HBO, continues to oversee content on the HBO service, with investment in HBO original programming having been increased 50% over normal spending.
Kevin Reilly, president of the Warner Media Entertainment Networks that include TNT, TBS, and truTV, also serves as chief content officer of HBO Max overseeing all new Max Originals and library content.
Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media, now oversees the development of HBO Max with Andy Forssell, also from Otter Media and formerly CEO of Hulu, as the general manager.
Some of Hollywood’s most successful creators and producers are looking forward to the new service, including the following who are either producing for HBO and/or an upcoming HBO Max Original:
“WarnerMedia has three things going for it with this new streaming service. One, they have an incredible history and legacy of storytelling. Two, they’re super future-focused and trying to be the best. And three, they’re letting people like me embarrass myself episode after episode until I find love. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this family,” Anna Kendrick said.
“Back in 1991, after a decade in television, I began writing a series of novels that I knew would never be filmed,” said George R.R. Martin, creator of “Game of Thrones.”
Martin said his show was too big, too complex, too dark, too sexy, with a cast of thousands, gigantic battle and massive castles for a feature film and too expensive for television.
“I should have remembered, ‘It’s not television, it’s HBO,’” Martin said. “Working with HBO during the past decade has been a dream come true. What they did could not be done, but they did it anyway. And now they are embarked on a new venture.”
The author hinted he hopes the platform will help him return to “my world of Westeros.”
As expected, NBC Universal June 25 announced it has secured the exclusive domestic streaming rights to “The Office.” All nine seasons of the catalog NBC sitcom will be available on the company’s soon-to-be-launched ad-supported/subscription streaming service for five years, beginning 2021.
The sitcom, similarly to Warner Bros. Television’s “Friends,” is currently exclusively licensed to Netflix. Both shows have become subscriber favorites for the SVOD behemoth — and thus coveted programming for NBC and WarnerMedia as they prep pending over-the-top video platforms.
“‘The Office’ has become a staple of pop-culture and is a rare gem whose relevance continues to grow at a time when fans have more entertainment choices than ever before,” Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBC Universal direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises, said in a statement.
“The Office” is the number one series on SVOD, according to the media company. In 2018, it was streamed for over 52 billion minutes, and in April 2019, it was viewed nearly twice as much as the next most-viewed program on SVOD.
“‘The Office’ is one of our most prized series,” said Pearlena Igbokwe, president, Universal Television.
Produced by Universal Television in association with Deedle-Dee Productions and Reveille Productions, “The Office” takes a documentary-style look at the humorous and foolishness that plagues the 9-to-5 world. Based on the award-winning BBC hit, “The Office” is a fly-on-the-wall “docu-reality” parody of modern American office life that delves into the lives of the workers at Dunder Mifflin, a paper supply company in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The show, which premiered on NBC in 2005, created indelible characters like Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute and Pam & Jim, and launched the careers of some of Steve Carrell, Ed Helms, John Krasinski, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, B.J. Novak, Craig Robinson and Mike Schur, among others.
“The Office” is executive-produced by Ben Silverman, Greg Daniels – who developed the series for American audiences – Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Howard Klein, Paul Lieberstein, Brent Forrester and Dan Sterling.
In addition to being NBC’s highest-rated scripted series for multiple seasons during its broadcast run, “The Office” was named one of the best shows on TV by dozens of media outlets, including TIME Magazine, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and The Atlantic, while also being a consistent awards contender with 180 nominations and more than 40 wins.
Among its prestigious honors are the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, the Peabody Award, AFI Honors, the Producers Guild Award, the Writers Guild Award, the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy, and a Television Critic’s Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy.
WarnerMedia has appointed Ann Sarnoff chair and CEO of Warner Bros.
Sarnoff, who is currently president, BBC Studios Americas (formerly BBC Worldwide Americas), brings more than 30 years of diversified business and media experience to the role of overseeing worldwide operations at Warner Bros., including the production, marketing and distribution of film, television and interactive entertainment.
Sarnoff will be based in Los Angeles and will officially join the company later this summer, according to a WarnerMedia press release.
She replaces Kevin Tsujihara, who left the position in March after allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I am delighted Ann is joining the WarnerMedia team and excited to work side by side with such a talented and accomplished individual. She brings a consistent and proven track record of innovation, creativity and business results to lead an incredibly successful studio to its next chapter of growth,” said WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey in a statement. “Ann has shown the ability to innovate and grow revenues and has embraced the evolution taking place in our industry. I am confident she will be a great cultural fit for WarnerMedia and that our employees will embrace her leadership, enthusiasm and passion for our business.”
“It is a privilege to join a studio with such a storied history. Warner Bros. has been an industry leader for decades and is known for creating many of the most iconic film, television and gaming properties,” said Sarnoff in a statement. “I accept this position excited by the opportunity to work with the most accomplished executives and teams in media, and confident about carrying this incredible heritage forward with them.”
As president of BBC Studios Americas, Sarnoff has been responsible for driving growth and profit across the company’s diversified business division in the United States, Canada and Latin America. She oversaw L.A. Productions, linear and digital program sales and co-productions, home entertainment, and licensing. She also led efforts to amplify BBC Studios’ global brands “Doctor Who,” “Top Gear,” and the natural history brand “BBC Earth.” As board chair of BritBox Sarnoff has guided the development and growth of the direct-to-consumer service which offers U.S. and Canadian customers the largest collection of British television programming.
“Ann’s contribution to BBC Studios has been immense,” said Tim Davie, CEO BBC Studios in a statement. “She has grown our core business as well as driving significant innovation, including the successful creation of BritBox, the growth of BBC America alongside our partner AMCN, the launch of new channels like BBC Earth in Canada, and major new content and production deals. We will miss her generosity and her spirit of collaboration, and we wish her great success at Warner Bros.”
During a leadership transition, Warner Bros. was managed by an interim team of leaders made up of Toby Emmerich, chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group; Peter Roth, president and chief content officer, Warner Bros. Television Group; and Kim Williams, EVP & CFO, Warner Bros.
Less than three months after disclosing DirecTV Now lost 83,000 subscribers in the most-recent fiscal quarter, corporate parent AT&T appears to be re-adjusting its focus on the much-ballyhooed online TV service.
Launched in 2016, DirecTV Now ended the first quarter with about 1.5 million subscribers — many of them attracted by the service’s initial $34.99 monthly fee — a win for consumers but unsustainable to the bottom line.
Earlier this year, AT&T rolled out two new subscription plans ranging from $50 to $70 monthly. It also operates Watch Now, a mobile-only streaming service.
Speaking June 19 at the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Telecom & Media Conference in London, David Christopher, president of AT&T Mobility and Entertainment, said DirecTV Now would be downsized to a “thin” service targeting the telecom’s 170 million mobile connections.
“We have emphasized it slightly less than we did when it first launched because we are focused more on other elements of the portfolio,” Christopher said.
Those elements include a pending $15 WarnerMedia branded service with HBO and Warner Bros. central assets to the streaming platform.
“Our job is to make the media company more valuable,” Christopher said, adding that he thinks the WarnerMedia SVOD service can “get to tens of millions” of subscribers in the U.S. “in short order.”
“It’s a big opportunity for distribution. It’s a big opportunity for advertising,” Christopher said. “That SVOD product fits into our distribution product line of video very well.”
He said AT&T doesn’t currently have a standalone “SVOD product,” at a time when the executive contends a one-size-fits all approach to over-the-top video distribution isn’t working.
Indeed, with increasingly fragmented consumer segments in the media landscape, AT&T believes an SVOD service targeting aficionados of movies and premium TV shows can generate significant market share.
“Premiere content at a great value is always going to find a place [in the market],” Christopher said.
When asked about declining video subscribers, Christopher downplayed the economic impact, saying video accounts for just 7% of AT&T’s total revenue.
“You have to understand that relative weight,” he said, adding that the company is “working through” 1.6 million subscribers with two-year, loss-leader plans it believes will disappear by the end of the year.
“That’s a big relief for us,” Christopher said. “We are cleaning up our customer base.”
With Disney agreeing to acquire Comcast’s 33% stake in Hulu, the subscription streaming video service with 28 million subscribers is now under the direction of one company instead of four (Disney, Fox, Comcast, WarnerMedia).
In an interview with CNBC, Hulu CEO Randy Freer said consolidation among the platform’s corporate owners offers increased clarity on the service’s objectives, strategic planning and voice going forward.
“We’re super excited about the opportunity,” Freer said.
The executive added that Disney’s plan to incorporate Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+ into a possible SVOD bundle sold to consumers and distributors offers additional opportunities.
“I think it’s another way for Hulu to extend and grow its already fast-growing subscriber base,” Freer said.
With Hulu the only major SVOD service streaming advertising on its basic subscription plan, Freer said marketers are looking for consumer access in over-the-top video ecosystem dominated by ad-free players Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
“I think the opportunity at Hulu … with huge audiences … long engagement times, a young audience, 20-to- 25 years younger than network television … is a huge for brands to come in and talk to the consumers that they’re looking to reach the most,” he said.
At the same time, Freer cautioned that marketing Hulu as a service with half the ads of broadcast TV is not “okay anymore.”
“We have to find new ways to integrate brands into the ad,” he said.
Indeed, Hulu has launched a number of new ad formats, including “pause ads,” which displays a static ad when a viewer pauses programming; and “Friends with Benefits” featuring “Easter eggs” hidden on the site that offer special deals from brand partners when clicked.
“There [are] all kinds of ways to make the customer experience on Hulu better than any of our competitors,” Freer said. “And we can’t forget that the most important thing to consumers is choice. What’s more important is giving them the option of an ad service and the option of an ad-free service so they can determine what’s the best experience to view things.”
One of the reasons Netflix claims it doesn’t pursue live sports programming is fiscal common sense. Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos argues he doesn’t want to become embroiled in vanity battles over escalating rights fees lavished by networks on MLB, the NBA and NFL for access.
Observers say that’s an odd reason, considering the SVOD pioneer has pushed content spending into the professional sports stratosphere. Netflix recently signed TV producers Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”) and Shonda Rimes(“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal”) to record-breaking content deals valued at $300 million and $100 million, respectively.
Warner Bros. TV shelled out a reported $400 million for producer Greg Berlanti (”Dawson’s Creek,” “You,” “Riverdale”).
And Apple inked deals with Oprah, Jennifer Aniston, Steven Spielberg and Reese Witherspoon, among others.
Now, Warner’s corporate umbrella, WarnerMedia, is reportedly close to signing director J.J. Abrams (Star Wars, “Westworld”) to an exclusive deal worth $500 million. An amount pushed by losing suitors Apple, Comcast and Netflix, among others.
WarnerMedia is swinging for the fences in part because it is backed by telco parent AT&T’s mushrooming debt spending ($171 billion) seeking a creative backstop for a pending branded SVOD service as well as leverage against the November OTT launch of Disney+.
WarnerMedia also recently signed smaller deals with Ava DuVernay (“When They See Us”), Mindy Kaling (“The Mindy Project”) and is reportedly close to re-signing Chuck Lorre (“Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men”) to another long-term production deal.
“With more streaming services competing for available content, we expect more [production] consolidation [i.e. spending] to occur over the next few years,” Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter wrote in a note.