WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar to Depart as Discovery Merger Approaches
With the merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery set to become official as early as next week, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar has announced that he will be stepping down from his position and will not be a part of the new Warner Bros. Discovery moving forward.
In a statement sent to WarnerMedia staff, Kilar wrote:
“With the pending transaction with Discovery nearing close, now is the right time to share with each of you that I will be departing this amazing company.
“There are many feelings one could have in a moment like this, but for me there are none bigger, or more lasting, than the feelings of gratitude and love that I have for this team, this company, and this mission. I’ve never been more fulfilled professionally. I’ve never been happier professionally. This team – and what we’ve built together – are the reasons for that. We’re leading the industry creatively. We’ve elevated technology, product, and design to the highest levels in the company. We’re operating as one team, proudly and successfully going direct to consumers across the globe. It has been deeply gratifying to lean into the future alongside each of you and to do so with conviction.” You can read Kilar’s full statement below.
The merger is expected to become official on Monday, April 11 and Discovery CEO David Zaslav will take the reins at Warner Bros. Discovery. Kilar’s departure does not come as a surprise, as the past few years have been both incredibly successful and tumultuous for the now-former WarnerMedia exec.
Having joined the company just one month before the launch of HBO Max, Kilar was responsible for one of the most consequential decisions in the company’s history when he decided that the totality of WarnerMedia’s 2021 theatrical slate would be released day-and-date in theaters and on streaming.
The move angered many filmmakers, stars, and cinema owners as they felt undermined as the pandemic raged on, but the decision dramatically boosted the standing of the fledging streamer in the industry and with consumers. After launching in May 2020, HBO Max reached 46.8 million domestic subscribers by the end of the day-and-date experiment in December 2021. Thanks to this impressive growth, the planned merger of HBO Max and discovery+ could lead to a service that eclipses the size of Disney+ depending on the metrics.
Despite pushback from directors like Christopher Nolan, AMC theatre chain CEO Adam Aron, and others, Kilar has maintained that his decision was the right one for both HBO Max and the movie industry.
“I’d argue we’ve done more for theaters in 2021 than anyone else in Hollywood, by far,” he said. And he might have a point.
“Wonder Woman 1984” was the first film to go out under the strategy, and it was a substantial driver of HBO Max subscriptions. Reports indicate that the subscribers who came to HBO Max for “WW84” stuck around at a higher rate than those drawn into streaming services by other titles.
Additionally, “Godzilla vs. Kong” arrived in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day and the creature feature still managed to score at the box office, with a $31.6 million opening weekend ahead of $100.9 million domestic and a $468 million global hauls.
In addition to working on the HBO Max launch, Kilar also took over the launch of CNN+ when Jeff Zucker was ousted from the company. Despite knowing that the merger with Discovery was on the horizon, Kilar decided to launch the news streamer late last month. In an appearance on CNBC on Tuesday, Kilar said that he didn’t think that the stand-alone launch would prohibit the service from eventually bundling with — or being absorbed by — the HBO Max and discovery+ service.
“The vision for CNN+ has always been twofold, which is to have a standalone service for those folks that are interested in a news product like CNN+,” he said, “but also have the ability to have it bundled into HBO Max where you’re able to purchase CNN+ and be able to consume it either as a standalone app or as part of HBO Max. So that’s always been the vision and that hasn’t changed and I suspect that won’t change with Discovery.”
Having previously served as the CEO at Hulu as it rose to be an increasingly important competitor to Netflix, Kilar has now been behind the rise of two major streaming services, and the launch of a third still in its infancy. The exec has not indicated what is next for him, but with the proliferation of services, it would not be a surprise to see him back in the streaming arena in the near future.
Max is a subscription video streaming service that gives access to the full HBO library, along with exclusive Max Originals. There are hubs for content from TLC, HGTV, Food Network, Discovery, TCM, Cartoon Network, Travel Channel, ID, and more. Watch hit series like “The Last of Us,” “House of the Dragon,” “Succession,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and more. The service changed its name from “HBO Max” on May 23, 2023.
Max has three tiers, an ad-supported plan for $9.99 an ad-free plan for $15.99, and the ultimate tier that includes 4K for $19.99.
All Max subscribers will get the full libraries of shows like “Friends”, “The Big Bang Theory”, “South Park”, “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, “The West Wing”, and more.
You can choose to add Max as a subscription through Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, or other Live TV providers.
Read Kilar’s full memo to WarnerMedia employees:
With the pending transaction with Discovery nearing close, now is the right time to share with each of you that I will be departing this amazing company.
There are many feelings one could have in a moment like this, but for me there are none bigger, or more lasting, than the feelings of gratitude and love that I have for this team, this company, and this mission. I’ve never been more fulfilled professionally. I’ve never been happier professionally. This team – and what we’ve built together – are the reasons for that. We’re leading the industry creatively. We’ve elevated technology, product, and design to the highest levels in the company. We’re operating as one team, proudly and successfully going direct to consumers across the globe. It has been deeply gratifying to lean into the future alongside each of you and to do so with conviction.
The joys are many, especially the walk-and-talks that I’ve had with a great many WarnerMedia team members, diving deeply into the matters at hand, whether on the storied lot in Burbank, along The High Line at Hudson Yards, in and around Techwood and CNN Center, inside our archives, across the expansive lot at Leavesden, at any of our game studio locations, or the many other locations where this team quite literally changes the world. Apparently, word has gotten around that when Jason calls for a walk-and-talk, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes!
For those of you that know me well (or follow me on Twitter), it comes as no surprise that I adore our history and the footprint we have as a company across the globe. I’ve done my best to visit and get to know as many of you as possible and to photographically document my love for this team and this company along the way via social media. So, when my wife Jamie and I were thinking about what we could do on our own to adequately express our appreciation to each of you, we came up with the idea to create a series of artifacts featuring some of the photos I’ve taken to celebrate this team and WarnerMedia. We’re inviting each of you to visit this website and choose an image that resonates…from the iconic Warner Bros. water tower, the gleaming towers of Hudson Yards, the virtual production stage in Leavesden, and several more. An artifact featuring that image (and a note from me on the back) will be shipped to you in the coming weeks. Our hope is that this memento will bring a smile and remind you of the important contributions we’ve made to the 99-year legacy of this extraordinary company.
Leading this team has been the honor of my lifetime. My heart is so full, and I am beyond thankful to each of you. There is no better team on the planet, and I will savor every last step as I wander the lot in Burbank several more times this week, with this team on my mind, always.