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WarnerMedia hires Larcher to oversee HBO Max international rollout, names HBO Europe chief

Johannes Larcher

WarnerMedia has appointed Johannes Larcher, MD of Middle East streamer Shahid, to oversee the international roll-out of its HBO Max service.

Separately, WarnerMedia has also named Christina Sulebakk as the new head of HBO Europe.

Larcher will become head of HBO Max International from August with responsibility for the global roll-out and management of the direct-to-consumer service, which launched in the US on 27 May. He will report to Gerhard Zeiler, chief revenue officer at WarnerMedia and president of its International Networks.

His first focus will be the launch in Latin America, which is expected in 2021, and will see him work closely with Whit Richardson, who was today announced as president of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks Latin America. Richardson was most recently president of Turner Latin America.

Larcher will also work with Priya Dogra, who was promoted to become president of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks, EMEA & APAC earlier this week.

Shahid strategiser

Larcher is currently MD of digital at the Middle East’s MBC Group, where he has worked on the company’s streaming service Shahid VIP. It is now the world’s largest Arabic-language streamer with 1.4 million subscribers and has been adding to its own exec ranks recently, naming ex-Zodiak Media chief Marc Antoine d’Halluin as CEO in December and former Viaplay and NENT Studios exec Jakob Mejlhede Andersen to head content in April.

Prior to that, Larcher was CEO of US-based virtual and augmented studio SubVRsive, which he co-founded, and before that he was SVP of international at Hulu, working on the streamer’s roll-out in Japan.

He has also had stints as president & CEO of online video education start-up Academy123, which was later sold to Discovery, and served as GM of international for paid search outfit Overture Services until its acquisition by Yahoo! in 2003.

Zeiler said: “I got to know Johannes as a passionate entrepreneur. His leadership skills, together with his strong direct-to-consumer and digital experience, international business foundations and tech expertise give him the perfect background to drive the growth of HBO Max beyond the United States.”

Larcher added: “Living at the crossroads of digital technology and content, I’m thrilled to help create unforgettable entertainment experiences for consumers in international markets and make HBO Max an indispensable streaming service around the world.”

Sulebakk replaces Payan as HBO Europe chief

Christina Sulebakk

WarnerMedia has appointed Christina Sulebakk to lead HBO Europe including the linear networks and streaming service effective immediately. In her new role as general manager, HBO Europe,

Sulebakk, who will report into Dogra, replaces Hervé Payan who served as CEO of HBO Europe for eight years and who will be leaving the company at the end of August. She has been at HBO Europe for over eight years, most recently serving as EVP, CMO and head of distribution. During her years at HBO Europe she has worked in Madrid, Budapest and New York and has played pivotal roles in transforming the Central European business into streaming, and launching HBO España.

Dogra said: “Christina is a tremendously talented executive who has been integral to the success of HBO Europe. She has a deep understanding of direct-to-consumer businesses and has played a pivotal role in the development of our international plans. She will be a key force in driving our growth in Europe.”

“We’re incredibly grateful to Hervé for his leadership in building and growing the HBO Europe business and importantly, for his vision in launching streaming video offerings in key markets in Europe. I’ve personally worked closely with Hervé over the past few years and I’ve appreciated his entrepreneurial spirit, his focus on innovation and good sense of humor. We are thankful to Hervé for staying on until the end of August to ensure a smooth transition of this important business.”

Payan said: “I am enormously proud of what the HBO Europe team has achieved over the years.  I am delighted to see the torch pass to Christina.  She has been here since the outset and I’m sure she will play a valuable role in accelerating the pace of the business.”

Sulebakk said: “I couldn’t be more thrilled about my new role and our ambitious plans for HBO Europe. Working on this iconic brand with exceptionally talented colleagues at such a pivotal time in the industry has been an educational and enriching experience. I can’t wait to get started on the opportunities that lie ahead as we build on the strong foundation that is Hervé’s legacy.”

WarnerMedia’s global rejig

The appointments cap a busy week for HBO Max, following Dogra’s appointment on Monday to replace the outgoing Giorgio Stock, who stepped down at the end of June. She will share responsibility for the kids business in EMEA and APAC with Tom Ascheim, who was recently named president of global kids, young adults and classics at Warner Bros.

Larcher’s appointment also suggests WarnerMedia will soon step up its global roll-out of HBO Max, which to date has only been available in the US. How that strategy will unfurl remains unclear, however.

WarnerMedia has an array of content deals with broadcasters around the world, including offering its flagship HBO content to Sky in the UK, for example.

HBO Max also struck a co-production pact last year with Sky, as revealed by our sister title TBI, while its approach in Asia is also to be revealed. The US firm has closed its HBO Go mobile app in the States as it seeks to simplify a complex line-up of offerings, but just last week launched the HBO Go service in Taiwan.