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AT&T CFO John Stephens Says Recent Layoffs Are Meant to Refocus WarnerMedia

Stephanie Sengwe

It’s no secret that WarnerMedia is presently recalibrating their company. Just yesterday, news came out that the media giant will be laying off of at least 800 employees, while HBO is expected to let go of 150 to 175 people. This comes a week after new CEO of the company, Jason Kilar, boarded Andy Forssell — who was the GM & EVP of WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer division — to run WarnerMedia’s entire direct-to-consumer business. The move sees longtime execs Bob Greenblatt and Kevin Reilly leaving the company.

According to Deadline, AT&T CFO John Stephens addressed the changes during the Oppenheimer Technology, Internet & Communications Conference today, revealing to the audience that all the shifting is necessary as the company is putting more focus in their direct-to-consumer vector, which is HBO Max.

“All of these groups are then focused and speak with one voice and, quite frankly, allow for some streamlining of support services and back office and G&A services,” Stephens stated. “So we can take that and continue to invest that money in being able to put the best content out there. I view it as more of a refocusing of the company … This is a transformation of making things better, not because we needed to adjust anything but rather because we’re striving to get even better than the launch was, to get even better than WarnerMedia has traditionally performed.”

In June, WarnerMedia announced that they appointed Richard Tom as the chief technology officer of the company. Tom reports to Kilar and is responsible for technology and operations organization, including technology strategy, platform development and operations as well as shared services across WarnerMedia.

Like Kilar, Tom did a stint at Hulu, previously serving as CTO and SVP of the streaming service, where he built and led the technical infrastructure that powered Hulu’s success with advertisers, content partners and customers.

Other industry veterans who’ve joined the team are former DirecTV executive Sarah Lyons, Jess Miller (previously of DirecTV Now), former Hulu executive Katie Soo, former Warner Bros researcher Keith Camoosa and former Crunchyroll head of business intelligence Reid DeRamus.

The changes come as the industry as a whole is trying to deal with the aftermath of the coronavirus and cater to customers who are going from pay-TV to SVODs. Though it’s still not available on Roku or Amazon Fire TV, the May 27 launch of HBO Max went swimmingly. In their Q2 2020 earnings report, the company revealed that 4.1 million customers activated their HBO Max accounts. Three million of those were retail subscribers, while the rest were wholesale subscribers through AT&T.