HBO Max just got hit by layoffs

An expected wave of substantial layoffs has begun to crumble through Warner Bros. Discovery, with HBO Max, overseen by chief content officer Casey Bloys, losing about 70 employees on Monday — about 14% of its team. As speculated in numerous publications, the streamer’s reality and live-action divisions of the family-originals will be all but eliminated as part of a restructuring spurred by cost-cutting measures. But as Vulture first reported last week, Max’s head of original content, Sarah Aubrey, remains on the platform and will continue to work on a robust content slate, although her portfolio will evolve to focus on dramas and international programming.

From the moment Discovery Networks announced its intention to acquire the former WarnerMedia, industry insiders predicted significant layoffs due to overlapping divisions within the two companies. That became even more likely last spring, when the newly formed company announced plans to combine HBO Max and Discovery+ into a single platform. The declared intention of the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery David Zaslav to cut more than $3 billion in spending has only intensified pressure to make staff cuts, and the result has been months of speculation over which departments would be hit hardest. affected.

Because Discovery is a leader in unscripted series — and Discovery+ is hyper-focused on reality shows — HBO Max’s unscripted unit has long been expected to die out, and that’s essentially what’s happening. happening to this day. While the type of HBO Max reality programming made under the unscripted direction of Jen O’Connell (Legendary, Boy’s Island) is different from what’s on Discovery+, company management probably decided that the platform didn’t need two sets of development leads. (Current unscripted shows, including those in production that have yet to premiere, will not be immediately affected by today’s moves.) The decision to disband the live young adult crew, as to her, seems more driven by cost-cutting and the fact that HBO has never been hyper-focused on comedies and family dramas (although it does serve younger viewers with sesame street and Cartoon Network shows).

There will be a big change in Aubrey’s role at HBO Max: she will lose oversight of Max’s original comedies while assuming shared oversight of international programming in conjunction with the Warner Bros. team. Discovery International. While HBO Max’s Executive Vice President of Content Joey Chavez remains and will continue to work on drama with Aubrey, veteran comedian Suzanna Makkos will now be part of HBO’s comedy team overseen by the Executive Vice President. from HBO, Amy Gravitt. Given how similar HBO and HBO Max comedies have been since Max launched in 2020, the moves are unlikely to result in major changes to what appears on the platform. Warner Bros. executives Discovery have gone out of their way in recent weeks to refute reports predicting a substantial reduction in scripted programming from HBO Max, and the fact that Aubrey, Chavez and Makkos are staying seems to contradict the narrative that the streamer is getting ready to cut its offerings significantly. scripted.

Other changes to the HBO Max team will primarily affect support services. The HBO Max casting unit, for example, is being phased out, with individual show casting directors now tasked with finding their own talent. It reflects the way HBO has operated for years. And since most Hollywood studios keep the biggest assets of their content libraries to themselves — especially early windows for theatrical presentations — HBO Max’s content acquisition team is scaled down and will focus on the maintaining existing exit agreements.

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