Jason Kilar, currently CEO of WarnerMedia, admitted that he feels disappointed that he will likely be out of the job within a year.
AT&T is in the midst of spinning off WarnerMedia to combine it with Discovery, a deal expected to close in mid-2022 pending regulatory approvals. Kilar stated to staff that he intends to remain with WarnerMedia at the very least until early 2022.
Kilar, speaking at Vox Media’s Code Conference, said that the WarnerMedia CEO job “goes away once the [Discovery] transaction closes.” Asked if he was disappointed he won’t have the chance to continue leading the media conglomerate, Kilar responded, “I’m human, so in that context, yes.” He declined to discuss what his next venture might be.
Kilar, the one-time CEO of Hulu, said the last year and half he’s spent leading WarnerMedia has been the most professionally fulfilling stretch of his career. “I would far prefer this adventure to go on for 10 or 20 more years,” He acknowledged it. “But that’s not the way corporate America works.”
Until the transaction closes, Kilar said, he’ll continue to work to “set up WarnerMedia for the next hundred years.”
Kilar was interviewed at the Code Conference by MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle, who questioned him about the backlash WarnerMedia received from Hollywood talent after the company announced it would release its entire 2021 film slate day-and-date on HBO Max and in theaters.
“We endeavored to do the right thing in terms of communication,” Kilar stated. But, he said, “In hindsight, we should have taken a good month to have the 170 conversations” with the talent represented on the Warner Bros. 2021 film slate.
The industry is peaking in terms of the investment for streaming, Kilar opined, saying that “it’s probably unsustainable” for some players to continue pouring money into their businesses at existing levels. This means that the industry will see a shakeout. “There will be a short number of services you care about on a daily basis,” He said.
WarnerMedia will spend “north of $18 billion” on content across all areas of the business in both 2021 and 2022, Kilar said, responding to word that Netflix expects to spend $18 billion on content next year.
Kilar mentioned WarnerMedia as another company well-positioned for success in direct-to consumer streaming. Meanwhile, for Amazon, entertainment is “not a hobby” and will be in the game for the long haul, he said.
Kilar also praised the solid bench of WarnerMedia executives, including Casey Bloys (chief content officer for HBO Max and HBO Max), and Channing Dungey (chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Television Studios). “These are people who have honed their craft over decades,” Kilar said. “We get to be the team that welcomes them… and obviously storytellers choose to work with them.”
According to Kilar, HBO Max subscribers and HBO subscribers totaled 47.0 million in the U.S. at the end of June 2021. This is a jump of 2.85million sequentially (and 10.7 millions year-over-year). Globally, HBO Max and HBO Max combined had 67.5 million subscribers at the end-of Q2, an increase 12 million from last year.
AT&T expects the Sept. 15 end of HBO on Amazon Prime Video Channels, which had about 5 million subs, to cause its total domestic HBO/HBO Max sub base to take a hit in the third quarter. It reiterated its previous guidance of 70-73 million to 73 million global HBO Max subscribers and HBO subscribers by 2021. Most growth in the back half of 2021 will come from outside the U.S. after launching in 39 Latin American and Caribbean countries this summer, and with a European launch in six countries set for October, according to AT&T.