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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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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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  3. World: England to impose stricter regional systemU.S. hotspots far outpacing Europe's — Portugal to ban domestic travel for national holidays.
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  5. Sports: Coronavirus precautions leave college basketball schedule in flux.

Pennsylvania certifies Biden's victory

Photo: Aimee Dilger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pennsylvania officials on Tuesday certified the state's presidential election results, making President-elect Joe Biden's win in the key battleground official.

Why it matters: The move deals another blow to President Trump's failed efforts to block certification in key swing states that he lost to Biden. It also comes one day after officials voted to certify Biden's victory in Michigan.

Trump bump: NYT and WaPo digital subscriptions tripled since 2016

Data: Axios reporting and public filings; Chart: Axios Visuals

The New York Times and The Washington Post have very different strategies for building the subscription news company of the future.

The big picture: Sources tell Axios that the Post is nearing 3 million digital subscribers, a 50% year-over-year growth in subscriptions and more than 3x the number of digital-only subscribers it had in 2016. The New York Times now has more than 6 million digital-only subscribers, nearly 3x its number from 2016.

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