“There’s no retirement in my plans” – The Hollywood Reporter
About two years after AT&T named him CEO of WarnerMedia, Jason Kilar told staff at the entertainment giant on Tuesday that he was leaving when the company’s merger with Discovery closes.
The executive’s tenure has featured innovations, such as the launch of HBO Max and hybrid movie releases, but also drama and heated debate. He’s come under particular scrutiny for his HBO Max and “Project Popcorn” theatrical streaming experience and decision to change CNN’s leadership, including CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who left after omitting to disclose a personal relationship with brand marketing. and communications chief Allison Gollust, who later also quit.
After sharing his decision to leave WarnerMedia with staff on Tuesday, Kilar discussed takeaways from his tenure and vision for the future of streaming and disruption in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Given his past experience as CEO of Hulu and companies such as Amazon, Kilar’s next career move will draw a lot of attention, but he says he doesn’t have any specific plans just yet. more than one thing. “There is no retirement in my plans,” Kilar says. “As for where you should expect to see me: construction. Because at the end of the day, I love to build, it will most likely be at the intersection of storytelling and technology. Where media and technology meet is usually where I have been most fulfilled. And so I just think there’s still so much to do.
How will he view his time at WarnerMedia? “I absolutely loved this adventure here at WarnerMedia,” Kilar says. “I love the company. I love the team. I love the mission. But there is a transaction with Discovery, and my job is to hand over the keys to [Discovery CEO and future Warner Bros. Discovery CEO] David [Zaslav] when he comes back. »
Kilar believes Zaslav and his team are taking over WarnerMedia’s business at the right time. “WarnerMedia is in such incredible shape,” he says, noting “last year’s record revenues and HBO Max and all the streaming on CNN+ and the gaming business.”
Kilar adds that the Discovery team is eager to get started. “Discovery is very excited to come into WarnerMedia and be able to surround it. And so one of the things that I’ve shared with David over the last year has been, as excited as it may be before the merger closes, I think he’ll only be more excited after the close because of how great things are here,” he notes. “And I say that because of the creative momentum of the company, I say that because of the momentum of the company on the streaming side and the momentum on the gaming side as well, so I think the Discovery team will no longer be excited once she’s able to lift the hood and get full visibility into the business.
With Hollywood giants and other streaming players, what are the main challenges for streamers now? “There are a few challenges that I see,” he says THR. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is to keep customers happy day in and day out, and that requires scale, because it requires heavy investment to be able to entertain people every day. For businesses that aren’t able to scale , I think they will be left behind. Right now the companies that are at scale, in the storytelling, are WarnerMedia, Netflix and Disney. I’m putting Apple and Amazon aside because they have different businesses in terms of hardware and retail, but when it comes to media companies, storytelling companies, I think it’s difficult if you’re not one of those three large-scale players .
Asked about criticism of CNN’s leadership reshuffle and whether, in retrospect, Zucker’s ousting was handled in the right way, Kilar replies, “The most important thing [was] to take decisions. As I mentioned in a memo I shared with the team in January, there have been violations of our standards and practices, and so we have accepted the resignation of a number of people.
Remembering that time, Kilar shared a potential leadership lesson, adding that “I stand [by this] today.” The executive explains, “We have made decisions, and often times as a leader you make decisions that may not be warmly welcomed. But yet, it is important as a leader to making those decisions.” He adds, “And I would say CNN is in a really good place today, given the launch of CNN+, and obviously, the 3,000+ people working incredibly hard every day. If you look at the last, say, six weeks in Ukraine, that’s probably one of our best pieces of journalism, and it literally shapes the world. And so there are plenty of reasons to be excited about CNN.
“Project Popcorn,” the release of movies on streaming and in theaters during the coronavirus pandemic, was another much-criticized move during Kilar’s tenure. Again, however, the executive says it was about making the call on a path that others eventually followed as well. “We were the first to cross the wall,” says Kilar. “And the rest of Hollywood followed us. It’s funny, I’ve been in this industry for decades now. And I know it’s kind of a funny story to think of me as no, but between the birth of Hulu, writing the business plan for Amazon to get into video, literally having a warm relationship with every studio since 1997. It was fun to kind of push the boundaries of this industry, I would say, to inside.
He continues: “It was something that was close to our hearts and ended up being a very, very good decision. And others followed us. And, obviously, it worked very, very well in terms of a combination of box office performance amid the pandemic and streaming performance.
And The Batman’his race is cause for joy. “It’s certainly nice to know that we’re sitting on a movie that’s heading towards $800 million at the box office and that’s also going to show up on streaming services. So we’re very happy with the current situation,” Kilar says.
Will the box office window evolve further from here? WarnerMedia’s outgoing CEO expects that to be the case. “I think that’s going to evolve. I think what you’ll see are exclusive theatrical showcases for what I’ll call Imax-worthy shows. And clearly, The Batman is one of them. And Aquaman is part of it, and the flash is one of them and the Marvel movies are definitely that,” says Kilar. “But I also think what we’re going to see happen is that romantic comedies, nuanced dramas, you know, those movies that we’re very interested in funding and obviously we’re doing aggressively right now. I suspect what you will see is that these films will not only be available for streaming, but they will be made available to exhibitors around the world on a non-exclusive basis. It will start with independent cinemas. And then eventually, I suspect chains will play a role. You will also see the screen inventory assigned to these movie types. I actually think it’s going to be a very, very diverse list of cinematic films. But exclusivity, I suspect, will be different for smaller, more intimate films.
Asked about the next big disruption, Kilar notes, “I think one of the biggest trends, maybe not even a trend, but I would say if you look around some kind of digital wedge, I think the Blockchain is going to have a material impact on Hollywood and it’s going to have a material impact on creators. The reason for this is that it enables clear and immutable ownership of digital assets, and it also enables distributed finance. And I think those two things that blockchain enables are very, very powerful in any intellectual property business, which ultimately is what Hollywood is. So I think, you know, looking over the next decade, blockchain is going to weigh very heavily on where the industry is going. You’re going to see it in digital collectibles. And I also think you’re going to see it in funding the creation of new stories.
Asked about his favorite current or recent shows, Kilar warns that “we could be turned on for hours,” before sharing some recommendations for HBO Max shows. “One thing that I think is about as comforting as it gets is Julia. We just created it last Thursday night. And I adore it. I’ve seen the whole season. And that is joy. Julia equals joy in my book. And of course I love winning timeI love Golden age and, as painful as it may be as a parent to watch it, Euphoria is next-level storytelling. But if you’re looking for a smile, if you’re looking for a tear or two, you gotta watch Julia.”