As expected, layoffs have hit Casey Bloys’ HBO Max and HBO teams.
An estimated 14 percent of Bloys’ teams — an estimated 70 people — have been let go as part of the workforce reduction following the merger of WarnerMedia with Discovery. The moves are the latest step in cost-cutting for the combined Warner Bros. Discovery under CEO David Zaslav.
As part of the layoffs, Sarah Aubrey will continue to oversee the HBO Max originals drama slate and add international programming alongside the WBD international division led by Gerhard Zeiler. HBO Max comedy, however, will now fall under the oversight of HBO head of comedy Amy Gravitt with Max’s Suzanna Makkos reporting directly to the former. Gravitt, a well-regarded HBO veteran with a strong track record, will now oversee the combined comedy department. Joey Chavez, exec vp programming, will continue to report to Aubrey as a lead for Max dramas.
International co-productions — like I May Destroy You — will now be handled by the drama and comedy groups. With Warners titles already earmarked for HBO Max, there was less of a need for an acquisitions group, especially given the reduced need for third-party titles.
Following reduction in HBO Max nonfiction and live-action family originals, both departments have been severely impacted by the layoffs. HBO Max original reality — led by Jennifer O’Connell — as well as casting, international and acquisitions are the four departments that are the most impacted, along with business affairs and production. The latter two departments are being trimmed to eliminate staffing redundancies, part of Zaslav’s plan to find $3 billion in post-merger cost savings. The rest of Bloys’ programming direct reports remain unchanged.
With the influx of unscripted programming from Discovery, HBO Max had little to no need to continue its focus on originals. Current HBO Max unscripted originals will remain on the platform, with renewal decisions based on performance. Their oversight will shift to Discovery execs going forward.
Additional layoffs at other WBD divisions are expected, but this is it for Bloys’ team. The cuts end weeks of wild speculation about how deep they would be, including suggestions that the bulk of HBO Max’s originals would be jettisoned. That is not the case, however, as Bloys and Aubrey continue to grow a slate that includes hits And Just Like That, The Sex Lives of College Girls and Gossip Girl.
HBO Max and Discovery+ will be merged into one service next year. Executives are currently debating a new name for the service as sources say much of the discussion is if the HBO name remains part of it or if a more broad name for the service would work better. There are no cancellations as part of Monday’s layoffs. HBO will also not be a tile on whatever the new combined platform is. Budgets are also not being impacted as sources say they will only grow to meet the growing prices for content and top talent.