the dreaded Warner Bros Discovery post-merger layoffs have reached the programming operation supervised by HBO and HBO Max Casey Bloys, Content Director.
Overall, 14% of the staff – around 70 people – are laid off on Monday, the vast majority of them on the Max side. This includes in Max Non-Fiction Originals, International, Acquisitions, Casting and Previously reported Live-Action Family Originals, all of which are significantly reduced or essentially eliminated, resulting in the departure of most staff, led by Jennifer O’Connell EVP, Non-Fiction & Live-Action Family Originals for HBO Max; Jennifer Kim, Senior Vice President, International Originals for HBO Max; Michael Quigley, executive vice president of content acquisitions at HBO Max; and Linda Lowy, EVP Casting for HBO Max, TNT, TBS and WarnerMedia’s truTV.
I hear it layoffs are done by videoconference this morning. The cuts are part of WBD executives’ pledge to find at least $3 billion in savings.
Despite constant rumors about HBO Max’s scripted team, its leadership under Bloys remains mostly intact – albeit with some changes in responsibility – with all executives who reported to Bloys staying put and continuing to do so (at exception of O’Connell, who had a dual unscripted/scripted role).
Longtime Head of Comedy at HBO, EVP Programming Amy Gravitalso supports original comedy for HBO Max as the two groups are merged.
The move was announced a few weeks ago when news broke that Gravitt had started taking Max comedy pitches. Suzanna Makkoswho led comedy for HBO Max, most recently EVP Original Comedy and Animation for HBO Max and Adult Swim, will remain, reporting to Gravitt.
Makkos reported to HBO Max’s original content manager Sarah Aubrey, which also remains. The veteran development executive, who comes from extensive drama experience, will continue to oversee Max Original dramas and add a new international programming role, working with the WBD International team, led by Gerhard Zeiler, to coordinate the groups of international programming. country by country.
I hear the logic behind merging the comedy departments of HBO and Max is that there is more overlap in comedy between the two brands than there is in drama. This is exemplified by Max comedies like hacks and of course, sex and the city follow And just like that…it would go well on HBO proper.
The divergence is greater in the drama. where Max opted for broader pop culture content. Going forward, Aubrey will focus on large IP-based tent poles. (Joey Chavez remains as SVP of Programming and Head of Drama Max Originals, reporting to Aubrey.) This includes high-profile DC series The peacemaker and the next The Penguin and green lantern, all of which are moving forward, as well as another series to come, Duneswhich is currently sinking, and a This series adaptation, which is in accelerated development. In addition to the peacemaker, Max has had success with dramas based on the WB’s IP series, including Pretty little Liars and Gossip Girl.
Over the past month, there have also been rampant rumors that Max’s scripted slate is being emptied, with dozens of shows canceled and development reassessed or even scaled back. I’ve heard that a number of third-party projects in development have been released recently, but no major changes are planned for the in-house/Warner Bros. scripted slate. TV apart from the recently announced ad. programming for children and family.
WBD’s commitment to original Max programming was highlighted recently by WBD CEO David Zaslav during the company’s quarterly earnings call, where he also confirmed that the Bloys team remains on site.
“Quality is what matters. Quality is what Casey and this team deliver. It’s the best team in the business. We’re dubbing this HBO team,” Zaslav said. “They are all under contract and we are going to spend a lot more this year and next year than we spent last year the year before.”
He later added, “The majority of Casey’s team members have been locked in.”
Max’s cuts to Original Reality, International, Acquisitions, and Cast are unsurprising. With the pending fusion of HBO Max and non-fiction Discovery+ into one platform, HBO Max had previously suspended new development of unscripted series. O’Connell’s other estate at HBO Max and Live-Action Family Originals was also recently put on hold.
Going forward, existing unscripted Max series will continue or air as scheduled and, if they perform well, they will remain. There simply won’t be any new development in light of the large volume of non-fiction fare that will come from Discovery+ when the two services are merged next summer.
HBO Max’s reality TV slate includes shows such as Selena + Chef, which was renewed for a fourth season; Boy’s Island, which is airing its second season; and Legendary, which has just launched its third season. The move will be a blow to the unscripted community, as HBO Max was known to pay between $1.5 million and $2 million per episode for some of its unscripted shows, well above Discovery’s usual rates, which reach usually around $500,000 per hour.
The elimination of HBO Max’s casting department puts the streamer in sync with HBO proper, which never had an in-house casting department and instead used casting directors for individual shows.
The situation is similar with the phasing out of Max’s international group. HBO’s drama and comedy departments had forged their own co-productions on shows like I can destroy you and years and yearssomething that would probably be duplicated on the Max side.
The downsizing of HBO/Max’s acquisition team, which has reached library deals, comes amid a collapse of the Pay 1 window in the new era of vertically integrated movie studios largely supplying their streaming platforms, and a decrease in sales of third-party series libraries for the same reason. HBO/Max’s last big Pay 1 pact, a 10-year deal with 20th Century, which was recently restructured to include 20th Century movies and Searchlight shared with Disney+ and Disney’s Hulu, is set to expire with the new Avatar film in 2023. On the TV side, South Park is a rare television series not produced by Warner Bros. whose library was ripped out by HBO Max; he is expected to move to his corporate streamer, Paramount+, in 2025.
The moves further dismantle the Max structure as a standalone entity with its own infrastructure built under Kevin Reilly. The process began shortly after HBO’s Bloys added Max’s content operation to its remit in 2020 with the closure of Warner Max, a cinema label launched by the previous regime to provide mid-budget films exclusively. for the streamer.
At HBO, isolated layoffs are expected in programming, production and BA.