Feb 28, 2019 - Economy

HBO, Turner execs step down amid WarnerMedia shakeup

HBO CEO and Chairman Richard Plepler and Turner President David Levy are stepping down, according to multiple media reports.

Why it matters: The move comes amid reports that NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt has been in talks with WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey for a position to oversee all of AT&T's media assets, including HBO, Turner and WarnerMedia’s news streaming service.

  • In a memo to staff, Plepler made it clear that it was his decision to step down from the company he's built his career at over the past 28 years. "Hard as it is to think about leaving the company I love, and the people I love in it, it is the right time for me to do so."

The big picture: The move comes as a surprise to industry heavyweights, as both Plepler and Levy are considered titans in their respective spaces. Last week, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said WarnerMedia would operate more independently than previous AT&T acquisitions.

Between the lines: Rumors emerged that Stephenson was looking to potentially combine the HBO and Turner units just as the government gave up on its effort to block the deal, following an appeals court ruling the went AT&T's way.

Be smart: It's likely that Plepler's resignation is tied to pressure coming from AT&T to make more, commoditized content. Last summer, the New York Times received an audio recording of AT&T executives' first meeting with HBO staffers. The recording included a terse exchange between WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey and Plepler over the network's production strategy.

“Also,” Mr. Stankey said, “we’ve got to make money at the end of the day, right?”
“We do that,” Mr. Plepler responded, to scattered applause.
“Yes, you do,” Mr. Stankey said. “Just not enough.”
“Oh, now, now, be careful,” Mr. Plepler said.

The Information was the first to report Levy's departure.

Editor's note: Axios has a show on HBO.

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