Feb 28, 2019

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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U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

More than 62,300 U.S. health care workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and at least 291 have died from the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday. COVID-19 had infected about 9,300 health professionals when the CDC gave its last update on April 17.

By the numbers: More than 98,900 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 384,900 Americans have recovered and more than 14.9 million tests have been conducted.

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:00 p.m. ET: 5,589,626 — Total deaths: 350,453 — Total recoveries — 2,286,956Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:00 p.m. ET: 1,680,913 — Total deaths: 98,913 — Total recoveries: 384,902 — Total tested: 14,907,041Map.
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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

There are no COVID-19 patients in hospital in New Zealand, which reported just 21 active cases after days of zero new infections. A top NZ health official said Tuesday he's "confident we have broken the chain of domestic transmission."

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Tuesday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.9 million tests).