Three Top Executives Are Out at WarnerMedia, HBO’s Parent Company

In a sudden shake-up at one of Hollywood’s biggest companies, three top executives have left WarnerMedia, the AT&T division that houses HBO and the streaming service HBO Max, the company announced on Friday.

Robert Greenblatt, the chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment, is out after little more than a year on the job. Kevin Reilly, WarnerMedia’s chief content officer, is also departing, as is Keith Cocozza, the executive vice president of marketing and communications.

The surprise moves came on the watch of the WarnerMedia chief executive, Jason Kilar, who has wasted little time reorganizing the company he joined May 4.

Now Mr. Kilar is apparently putting his stamp on the company, which unveiled a major streaming platform, HBO Max, on May 27. In a note to WarnerMedia employees on Friday, he wrote, “My belief that missionary companies ultimately shine … and my strong belief that ours is a team filled with missionaries.”

Describing the overhaul that went into effect Friday, Mr. Kilar added, “These changes, which are neither timid nor without risk, are possible in part because we are missionaries that ultimately believe we can and will change the world through story. That is what this all comes back to.”

With Mr. Greenblatt and Mr. Reilly gone, Mr. Kilar has elevated two WarnerMedia executives, Ann Sarnoff, who joined the company in June as the chief executive of the Warner Bros., and Andy Forssell, the general manager of HBO Max.

Ms. Sarnoff’s role will expand: In addition to overseeing Warner Bros. movie and television studio, she will lead a new unit, the studios and networks group, which brings together the company’s original productions, including programming for HBO, HBO Max and the cable channels TNT, TBS and TruTV.

Ms. Sarnoff, whose career has included leadership roles at Nickelodeon, the Women’s National Basketball Association, Dow Jones and BBC America, will also be in charge of TV series made for WarnerMedia. Her business partner will be Mr. Forssell, who will report to Mr. Kilar.

A longtime HBO executive, Casey Bloys, was also promoted. In addition to heading original content at HBO, he will be in charge of original programming for HBO Max and the cable channels TNT, TBS, and TruTV and will report to Ms. Sarnoff.

Jeff Zucker, the longtime CNN head, was unaffected. Under Mr. Kilar, he remains the chairman of WarnerMedia’s news and sports units.

Mr. Kilar, 48, who came to WarnerMedia after a stint at Amazon, is best known as the founding chief executive of Hulu. He was appointed to his job by John Stankey, a veteran AT&T executive who ran WarnerMedia from June 2018 until May 1.

Mr. Stankey became the chief executive of AT&T on July 1, replacing Randall L. Stephenson, who has stayed at the company as executive chairman.

The sudden changes in WarnerMedia’s executive wing have broken apart the team Mr. Stankey assembled last year, when he was running the entertainment division after a three-decade career spent mostly in telecommunications.

In a resignation that got the attention of media insiders in New York and Los Angeles, Richard Plepler, the longtime head of HBO who led the network to 160 Emmys, left the company in February 2019. Mr. Stankey effectively replaced him with Mr. Greenblatt, who named Mr. Reilly, the onetime leader of the cable channels TNT and TBS, as WarnerMedia’s head of content.

In the entertainment world, Mr. Kilar was considered a thoughtful executive who happened to be the architect of Hulu back when streaming was a novel medium. With his bold restructuring on Friday, he has a new reputation as a forceful Hollywood player.

In his memo, which included some blunt lines amid more rhapsodic statements, Mr. Kilar noted that he was little more than 90 days into his tenure.

“Because of the gift that is the internet,” he wrote, “we have what I believe is one of the greatest opportunities in the history of media, which is to deliver our beloved stories and experiences directly to hundreds of millions of consumers across the globe.”

He also put his company on notice that he expected its new streaming platform to compete with Netflix, which now has 193 million subscribers around the world: “We are elevating HBO Max in the organization and expanding its scope globally,” Mr. Kilar wrote.

Toward the end of his note, he seemed to acknowledge that the flurry of moves might have caused some hurt feelings. “I realize this is a lot to take in,” he wrote. “And none of us should expect the above changes to be easy.”

Mr. Stankey, the AT&T chief, spoke highly of Mr. Kilar when he hired him in April. “It was always in the back of my mind that if there were ever a way to get him to work at AT&T in the right way, I’d jump at it,” he said at the time.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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