Jason Kilar of WarnerMedia on whether “Tenet” will work with “Mulan”

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WarnerMedia on Friday announced the news of a major internal reshuffle, which resulted in the departures of WarnerMedia Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt and HBO Max content director Kevin Reilly, as well as the elevations of Warner chief executive. Bros. Ann Sarnoff and HBO programming guru Casey Bloys. The company also created a new HBO Max business unit and put chief executive Andy Forssell – who worked alongside WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar after Kilar founded Hulu – at its helm.In a memo, Kilar underscored the importance of the new direct-to-consumer HBO Max platform to the entire company and said the structural changes are designed to help WarnerMedia operate more efficiently.

Below is a condensed conversation with Kilar, who spoke with Variety shortly after the announcement was made to explain what it all means:

With Andy Forssell – who like you was also at Hulu in its early years – now as the head of the new HBO Max business unit, what does that mean for the streaming platform? and will there be a difference in how it works? ?

He was one of the main architects of what I call over-the-top streaming. It dates back to 2007 when most people laughed at streaming services, be it what would become Hulu or Netflix at the time. And so this is the journey of Andy Forssell, whom I cannot stress enough how important him as an architect and business leader in the context of Hulu.

In terms of material changes, there are two changes that I will highlight among a number of them. The first is that he will report directly to me, as will his organization under him, which is obviously a change. And that obviously sends a very strong signal, both internally and externally, about the importance of direct-to-consumer in the future. It’s a change.

The other change, which is just as important, is the global rollout of HBO Max, under Andy now as well… It is very important in our future that we become global, that we not only go directly to the consumer, but that we were also going global… There is a fantastic executive named Johannes Larcher who actually brought Hulu and other over-the-top services to international locations. And Johannes will report to Andy in that role.

Given these changes, does it change your subscriber and revenue goals for HBO Max as you continue this international rollout?

Sorry, are you trying to get me to sign up for new issues? [Laughs.] Not to mention entire, my team’s ambitions for the opportunity with this structure are certainly very high, as it should be. And I say this in response to consumer demand. There are people who tweet me all the time who are in Portugal or Spain, or Latin America, or wherever they clearly want HBO Max. It’s our job to bring it to them.

Now that Casey Bloys is the head of programming for HBO, HBO Max, and the Turner Networks, how do you see the HBO and HBO Max originals aligning more under his leadership?

I think that makes it a lot simpler. Make no mistake, this is a vote of confidence in Casey, which I feel very good about doing, given his history. I mean, I think he has more Emmy nominations than I have hair. So he’s someone I admired from afar. It’s such a gift to be able to do it alongside them.

And that makes it easier. Because Casey, of course, has so much activity between his team that it allows him to be able very quickly to make decisions on an HBO sensitivity, an original HBO Max sensitivity, and then obviously TNT and TBS. And Casey has a long history in programming that goes beyond HBO.

So he’s someone who’s incredibly good at programming at different sensibilities. And that’s what I’m so excited to be – is that Casey and his newly expanded squad are really going to be able to program for a lot of different sensibilities. Sure, he’s probably always going to be known for HBO because it’s an incredibly powerful sensibility if you look at it from an industry perspective, but we also have a lot of other sensibilities in this world, in terms of DC. , the hardware and also kinds of brands and franchises and obviously some original intellectual property that we’re piping right now.

Should we expect further changes at Warner Bros., or a restructuring of film and television studios under Ann Sarnoff?

In terms of titles, no. Because it’s really our decision to pull together what used to be two different studios and content organizations and bring them together into one, and make the changes we’re making with Casey, specifically. So you shouldn’t expect anything along the lines of what we’re talking about today. I never want to suggest that an organization on the planet is calcified and blocked and frozen. So shame on us if we don’t keep moving forward as an organization, but no, you shouldn’t expect major changes in that direction.

What were your conversations with AT&T CEO John Stankey about where WarnerMedia is going from here?

When John and I started talking about WarnerMedia, and that was even before I got there, I see it as chapter two of what was sort of a very clear chapter one that John put together. When AT&T bought WarnerMedia, John did what I think was the biggest land move in WarnerMedia history, which was to say that they were three separate businesses between Turner, HBO, and Warner. Bros.

What John did was terribly upsetting, breaking down those walls and silos and really bringing in the notion of one company, which is WarnerMedia. And I’m so grateful for the work he does, because it’s the hardest job, and the most important, frankly, because it’s the foundation. And so what I do in chapter two of this one, which tightens our focus so that we can go from a wholesale business historically, like all media businesses have been in the last hundred years. , and really move into the future, which is to become a consumer business… which means going straight to the consumer and going global.

I don’t mean to say that we are not already global today. We have a lot of income outside of the United States. But when I talk about globalization, I think we could have 70% or more of our customers and our revenue outside of the United States. – and it really is a change from where we are today.

Given your experience in Silicon Valley, what philosophy do you bring from your days to Hulu to the present day? It certainly sounds very prescient, what you knew and what you were working on at Hulu in 2007, compared to the industry’s focus on streaming now.

Thanks for the question, because it’s humbling… I think one of the things that is so important to WarnerMedia and how I think about it is a thing or two. Number one, we have to start with the customer [and] what do we do to serve them?

At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is make the world move through stories. We try to get consumers through stories, and I think if we start there. And then ask ourselves, how do we do the best job we can do in terms of narrative storytelling, interactive storytelling… and then go back, that’s where the magic happens, for lack of a better sentence. And so that’s one thing I bring to the table, which is very, very focused consumer orientation and sensitivity.

The other thing that I hope I can bring to the team – I think it’s very important that we feel able to take risks while serving customers. And when you take risks, it is inevitable that you will fail a lot. Because when you take risks, you know you’re experimenting, and not all experiences turn out the way you want them to. So I want to empower this team, act boldly, look to the future, take risks… knowing that, yes, sometimes we will fail. But I believe with the time allotted, given the talent of this team, that we will do a great job for the clients.

The Internet, I think, is the greatest gift that can be given to a media company. Because what the Internet allows you to do is speak directly to consumers around the world, and media companies over the past hundred years have never had this opportunity. And I’m so excited to be able to do it, but that means we have to do two things. We have to be consumer oriented. And we must be prepared to take risks and look to the future.

In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, we’ve seen Universal, and this week Disney, make decisions about windowing and streaming movies. I wonder what you think of that, given the ongoing pandemic which has not returned to normal at this point.

This is an excellent question. As you can imagine, I obviously spend a lot of time with medical experts and try to get as close as possible to where the pandemic is going – vaccines, research and all of that stuff.

I would say two or three things. I think in time we will come back to sports stadiums, we will come back to theaters, we will come back to restaurants. I think that will happen – it’s a question of when and in which countries and in which towns and villages, because I think it will be really very surgical in terms of the differences.

So I believe… because we are humans and we are resilient and we solve these problems together. The second thing is: is the presence of a pandemic causing changes in this industry? And the answer is absolutely. I think this is speeding up changes that are probably already underway.

I think it’s fair to say that from a theatrical point of view some of the things we see, including “Mulan”, are very pragmatic executions given that that is what it is. Having said that, I think it’s also fair to say that there will be changes in a theatrical cast. We’re going to be looking at the current distribution incredibly aggressively going forward. But I also think – will the window stay longer than 130 days? I do not think so. But I don’t think anyone thinks so.

So the question is how to get from here to there, and that’s obviously important for many good copies, as they say in the press.

So you think you’d be willing to do something similar to what Disney did with “Mulan” this week?

So I have no comment to make on this particular subject. I think with “Tenet” we should judge this based on our decision making on “Tenet”, which is: We believe in theatrical business. We are thrilled to partner with Chris Nolan to release “Tenet” in theaters first.

And then of course, it will be in other formats, in other places, which are not theatrical. But I think if you look at our demeanor, we believe in the theatrical experience, and of course we are also in very close communication with everyone in the exhibition industry, on the topic of windows and on how which we can collectively serve consumers in the best possible way forward.

So I know it’s quite a provocative subject, and I understand that and it’s very understandable. But at the end of the day I’m excited about it and lean into it.



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