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Warner Bros. Discovery lays off staff as it restructures HBO Max

Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) has laid off 14% of HBO and HBO Max staff – around 70 people – with unscripted and live-action family programming hit the hardest, in its latest round of staff cuts.

Senior execs being given their marching orders include Jennifer O’Connell, EVP of non-fiction & live-action family originals for HBO Max; Jennifer Kim, SVP of international originals for HBO Max; Michael Quigley, EVP of content acquisitions at HBO Max; and Linda Lowy, EVP of casting for HBO Max, TNT, TBS and truTV.

These latest cuts come following the newly merged WBD leadership’s pledge to make at least $3bn in savings within two years. So far, the HBO & HBO Max scripted team under the recently re-upped Casey Bloys has largely survived the knife, save for O’Connell, who held a dual scripted and unscripted role.

However, recent weeks have seen a scaling back of HBO Max’s international ambitions, ahead of the launch of a new combined streaming service, with the development of local originals halted in countries such as the Nordics, Central Europe, the Netherlands and Turkey and the originals division led by HBO Max EMEA chief Antony Root set to be closed by the end of the year.

In a memo to staff yesterday, Bloys said that the decision to cut staff had been “extremely painful to make”, but added: “the environment in which we operate is changing rapidly, and it is up to us to continue to refine our model to chart a course for long term success.”

Responsibilities for those remaining execs are largely unchanged, with the one main exception as HBO’s head of comedy & EVP of programming, Amy Gravitt, will now also oversee original comedy for HBO Max, with the scripted comedy slate now under one team.

Suzanna Makkos, who formerly headed up comedy for HBO Max, will now report to Gravitt, while continuing to lead Adult Swim adult animation programming.

Following Michael Quigley’s exit, Royce Battleman, SVP of content acquisition will now lead the newly restructured department and now report to Glenn Whitehead, president of business affairs & production for HBO & HBO Max.

Sarah Aubrey will continue to oversee the Max Originals drama slate as well as expand her responsibilities to include a “key strategic global role,” with Joey Chavez, EVP of programming continuing to report to her as the lead for HBO Max drama originals.

The rest of the HBO leadership remains unchanged, with Francesca Orsi continuing to lead the HBO Originals drama team; Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller staying on to lead HBO’s documentary slate, and Nina Rosenstein leading late-night, talk, and specials content.

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