WarnerMedia Staffs Up Original Content Team at HBO Max

It's the latest move to build out programming to compete against other services

Mark your calendar for Mediaweek, October 29-30 in New York City. We’ll unpack the biggest shifts shaping the future of media—from tv to retail media to tech—and how marketers can prep to stay ahead. Register with early-bird rates before sale ends!

WarnerMedia has tapped a number of veteran television executives from its ranks to lead its original programming ambitions for its upcoming streaming service, HBO Max, which will be the the home of an ambitious slate of original programming alongside all of HBO’s programming and major library titles like Friends.

In a hiring announcement Thursday, WarnerMedia said that HBO Max, which is slated to debut in spring 2020, aims to target “younger adults as well as kids and families” with its original programming lineup and content acquisition plans. The announcement and the new hires signal some of the company’s original content ambitions, which Netflix and other companies are investing heavily in, in an attempt to attract new consumers to their services.

Among HBO Max’s new executives include Sarah Aubrey, the former executive vice president of original programming for TNT, who will head up all of HBO Max’s original programming. Aubrey, a former television and film producer, will report directly to Kevin Reilly, HBO Max’s chief content officer and the president of TNT, TBS and truTV.

Joey Chavez, the former svp of original programming at TNT, will serve as evp, original drama, and will be responsible for bringing in new original projects to the network. Jessie Henderson, the former co-president of the production company Feigco Entertainment, will head up creative development and production of HBO Max’s original films as evp, original feature films. Jennifer Kim, formerly svp, original programming at TBS, will head up HBO Max’s international content development as svp, international originals, and will also work on bringing comedy standup specials to the U.S. market.

Suzanna Makkos, the former evp of comedy programming and development at Fox Broadcasting, will head up the creative department for comedy and animation as evp, original comedy and animation; and Jennifer O’Connell, formerly Lionsgate’s evp and head of worldwide alternative programming, will serve as evp, original nonfiction and kids. Michael Quigley, a longtime WarnerMedia executive who oversees content acquisitions and strategy at TBS, TNT and truTV and film acquisitions at HBO, will take on HBO Max’s content acquisitions and strategy.

Those executives will report to Aubrey, save for Quigley, who will report to Reilly.

On the business and strategy side, Eric Besner, Warner Brothers’ former svp and head of strategic partnerships for digital networks, will serve as svp, business development and strategy for the upcoming service, overseeing business operations, content partnerships, and content expansion and innovation. Sandra Dewey, the former evp, head of business affairs for Turner Entertainment Networks and Cartoon Network Originals, will serve as president, business operations and development.

Meredith Gertler, a former HBO executive, will serve as evp, programming strategy and planning and will be responsible for developing programming strategies for HBO Max, HBO and Cinemax. Patrick Kelly, a longtime Turner executive, will serve as evp, business affairs, while still developing original programming at TBS, TNT and truTV.

Those executives will report directly to Reilly, save for Kelly, who reports into Dewey.

“I’m honored to work with this accomplished team of executives who have amassed an arsenal of our industry’s most prestigious awards, are innovative thinkers, and trusted partners in which the creative community can put their faith every single day,” Reilly said in a statement about the hires.

HBO Max’s staff-up is the latest in a series of moves to prepare for the service’s anticipated launch and build out a slate of programming that can compete against other services.

The company earlier this month scooped up the streaming rights to the sitcom Friends, which were previously held by Netflix, for a reported $500 million. On Wednesday, HBO Max said it was rebooting the beloved teen soap Gossip Girl, which is currently available for streaming on Netflix. (Netflix said then that the news did not affect its current license to stream the show.)

More details about the service, including its price, have yet to be announced. A WarnerMedia spokesperson declined to comment on the price of the service, but it will likely be more than the $14.99 it currently costs for consumers to access all of HBO’s programming through HBO Now, considering it will have even more content offerings.