Zaslav, as longtime observers predicted, has opted to have a direct-report relationship with the leaders of the businesses he doesn’t know as well as he does cable channels and advertising sales, per individuals close to the situation. Those include Casey Bloys, chief content officer of HBO/HBO Max (who will be adding Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network to his responsibilities), Warner Bros. Pictures chairman Toby Emmerich and Warner Bros. TV Group chief Channing Dungey.
To help manage his large number of direct reports, it’s no surprise that Zaslav has tapped trusted Discovery lieutenants for key operational roles, notably Bruce Campbell and JB Perrette.
Campbell, who had served as Discovery’s chief development, distribution and legal officer for Discovery, will become chief revenue and strategy officer, overseeing all sales and revenue-generating operations for the company with an estimated market cap of $45 billion. Discovery exec Savalle Sims will continue as general counsel, reporting to Campbell.
Perrette, previously Discovery’s president and CEO of streaming and international, has been named CEO and president of Warner Bros. Discovery Global Streaming and Interactive Entertainment, overseeing all streaming business operations, including HBO/HBO Max and Discovery Plus. Perrette will also guide direct-to-consumer and gaming, with president of Warner Bros. Games David Haddad reporting directly to him.
International channels for Warner Bros. Discovery will be headed up by Gerhard Zeiler, president of WarnerMedia International, who along with Bloys, Emmerich and Dungey is one of the key holdovers from the old regime that existed under AT&T ownership. Zeiler will add responsibility for Discovery’s significant international footprint. With respect to direct-to-consumer and international content distribution strategy, Zeiler and his team will have a dotted line to Perrette.
Kathleen Finch, formerly Discovery’s chief lifestyle brands officer, will become chairman and chief content officer of U.S. Networks Group, retaining oversight of Discovery Lifestyle Networks and adding all of Warner Bros. Discovery’s linear cable programming operations — with the exception of HBO, CNN and Magnolia Network — including TNT, TBS, TCM, truTV, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim to her purview. Nancy Daniels, chief content officer of Discovery Factual Networks, will report to Finch, as will Brett Weitz, general manager of TBS, TNT and truTV, and Tom Ascheim, president of Warner Bros. Global Kids, Young Adults and Classics, on the network side of his responsibilities.
As previously announced, Chris Licht will serve as chairman and CEO of CNN Global (a role he was appointed to by Zaslav after the abrupt recent exit of Jeff Zucker) and Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels will continue in his role, adding oversight of global enterprise technical operations, as well as real estate and facilities. Also continuing on from the Discovery side are Adria Alpert Romm as chief people and culture officer, Lori Locke as chief accounting officer, reporting to Wiedenfels, and David Leavy as chief corporate affairs officer, overseeing key business functions and groups.
Per Discovery, “The Company will name a new Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at a later date. The role will report jointly to the CEO, and Chief People and Culture Officer. The Company is also actively searching to fill the role of Chair and CEO for Warner Bros. Discovery Sports, reporting to the CEO. Lenny Daniels, President, Turner Sports and Patrick Crumb, President, Regional Sports Networks, will report into this position.”
“We are so excited to bring the heritage and legacies of these two great companies together by creating Warner Bros. Discovery, and I am proud that our new executive management team blends world-class leaders from both organizations as we take our first step toward one single cohesive, collaborative culture,” Zaslav said upon officially announcing his new team shortly before 8:30 a.m. PT Thursday. “Today’s announcement combines a strong team of professional managers in a simpler organizational structure, with fewer layers, more accountability and a singular strategic focus as a global pure-play content company. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves with this team so that, together, we can write this next exciting chapter. These accomplished leaders will create a place where creatives, talent and all of our people in every corner of the globe can do their best work and inspire audiences everywhere with the magic, joy and wonder of world-class storytelling, news and sports.”
As Variety previously reported, the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger is set to close as early as Friday, with plans to officially open for business as Warner Bros. Discovery Monday.
Instead of installing an overarching leader for entertainment, Zaslav’s moves for Warner Bros. Discovery’s management structure signal his intent to get into the weeds with division leaders. The Discovery CEO, who spent 17 years as a business executive with NBCUniversal before moving to Discovery in 2007, is understood to be planning to study the market dynamics around movies, premium pay TV and high-end series work before making any sweeping moves at the studio.
Zaslav has spent the past 11 months since the $43 billion transaction was unveiled meeting with a who’s who of Hollywood leaders and creatives. He’s known to have received counsel from Bob Daly, the longtime CBS and Warner Bros. chief, and Bob Iger, newly unleashed from Disney.
The announcement of Zaslav’s Warner Bros. Discovery leadership team comes at the end of a week that saw many WarnerMedia execs head out the door. The exodus kicked off Tuesday with the resignation of WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, along with the exits of Andy Forssell, the executive vice president and general manager of HBO Max, and Ann Sarnoff, chair and chief executive officer of WarnerMedia’s studios and networks group. On Wednesday, six executive suite members were ousted: Jennifer Biry, chief financial officer; Jim Cummings, exec VP, chief human resources officer; Tony Goncalves, exec VP, chief revenue officer; Christy Haubegger, exec VP, communications and chief inclusion officer; Jim Meza, exec VP, general counsel, WarnerMedia; and Richard Tom, chief technology officer. In some cases, executives declined offers to stay in different capacities.
Discovery insiders repeatedly stress that Team Zaslav still hasn’t really gotten under the hood of the soon-to-be former WarnerMedia. The nature of the transaction that AT&T and Discovery agreed to allowed them to accelerate the closing process but it also kept the sides at arm’s length in terms of information until very recently. Between regulatory concerns and pandemic concerns, the leadership regime from Discovery has not yet met many key senior management executives beyond top division leaders.
“We are in for a long period of getting-to-know-you,” said one Warner Bros. veteran.