Traditional media behemoths shook up their executive ranks in 2020 to reposition streaming at the center of their business. This comes as media companies rapidly work to figure out the streaming ecosystem as they acquire and build out their own platforms. And of course, streamlining business comes with cost benefits that are certainly needed amid the pandemic.
Here’s a look at the biggest media shake-ups of the year.
Former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar was named CEO of WarnerMedia in April and quickly cleaned house. Robert Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment was out after just a little more than a year on the job; Kevin Reilly, chief content officer and Keith Cocozza, exec VP of marketing and communications, a veteran of the company, also both left. Warner Bros. chief Ann Sarnoff, assumed oversight of all network, film and TV studio and streaming content, and Andy Forssell, general manager of HBO Max, is now leading a newly created HBO Max operating business.
Since then, WarnerMedia has laid off hundreds of employees.
John Stankey, CEO at WarnerMedia parent AT&T, has said the restructure will help the company have a focused approach to investing in content.
The Mouse House saw longtime CEO Bob Iger step down from the helm at the beginning of the year, with Bob Chapek assuming the top post. In May, Kevin Mayer, who had been overseeing the company’s direct-to-consumer and international division, departed the company for a short stint as CEO of TikTok. (Meyer resigned from TikTok just three months later as the Trump administration called for its China-based parent ByteDance to sell TikTok in the U.S.).
Then, in October, in an effort to double-down on its direct-to-consumer efforts, Disney centralized its media businesses into a single group responsible for distribution, ad sales and streaming, led by Kareem Daniel.
NBCUniversal brought its TV networks closer to its streaming service this spring, the first major move by Jeff Shell, who succeeded Steve Burke as CEO earlier in the year. It came amid the debut of its high-profile streaming platform Peacock in April. The new group is led by Mark Lazarus, who previously led NBC Sports Group and local stations. He added the entertainment businesses and Peacock to his oversight. At the same time, former Telemundo chief Cesar Conde was elevated to chairman of NBCUniveral News Group, succeeding Andy Lack, who departed the company.
Three months later the company looked to further centralize the studio and network group to allow content to be developed and distributed across its portfolio with a new entertainment business unit led by France Berwick, who previously served as president of lifestyle networks. As part of the restructuring, NBC Entertainment Paul Telegy, who launched hits including “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent,” left the company.
This year also saw the departure of Chris McCumber, president, entertainment networks, USA Network and Syfy, and a nearly 20-year veteran of NBCU.
As ViacomCBS prepares to rebrand its CBS All Access streaming platform into Paramount+ next year, PlutoTV CEO Tom Ryan was elevated to president and CEO of the company’s streaming division in October. Marc DeBevoise, who had been the company’s chief digital officer, left as part of the overhaul. Kelly Day, chief operating officer of ViacomCBS Networks International, took on an expanded role as president of streaming.
It wasn’t just traditional TV companies that went through significant shake-ups in 2020. Netflix surprised Hollywood when co-CEO Ted Sarandos promoted Bela Bajaria to VP global TV and ousted long-time exec Cindy Holland. The move comes as Netflix looks to streamline the reporting process within the TV group and increase its focus on expansion globally.