As with any mega-merger, the after-effects of the consolidation include significant personnel decisions while the new organization takes shape. Often, this process starts at the top before it trickles down to the rank and file. AT&T’s blockbuster announcement that it would spin off its WarnerMedia entertainment division and merge it together with Discovery included the appointment of Discovery’s CEO David Zaslav as the head of the new company. At the time of the announcement, the future role of WarnerMedia’s CEO Jason Kilar was not specified.
According to reporting by the New York Times, Kilar was blindsided by the merger, with the announcement coming awkwardly on the day after the Wall Street Journal published a profile of Kilar and his leadership and strategy for WarnerMedia. Kilar’s one-year tenure as the head of WarnerMedia has been controversial, due to his singular focus on streaming, often at the expense of traditional models for film distribution. His decision to release Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 film slate simultaneously to theatres and through the company’s in-house HBO Max streaming service prompted howls from exhibitors and talent. However, it has also had its intended results with significant growth in the number of HBO Max subscribers. Ironically, WB has also delivered the best box office performances of the pandemic period, since Warner Bros. films were among the relatively few big-budget commercial films that Hollywood delivered to theatres during the pandemic. Movie lovers flocked to commercially appealing films such as Wonder Woman 1984 and Godzilla Vs. Kong both on-line and in-theatres.
Kilar has since clarified his intention to remain at his post as WarnerMedia’s CEO throughout the year-long merger process, which is scheduled to complete in 2022.