Peter Roth to Step Down as Warner Bros. TV Chief
By Joe Flint
Peter Roth, who led the Warner Bros. Television Group to
unprecedented success during his more than two-decade tenure, said
he is stepping down early next year.
Mr. Roth, who earlier this year signed a new contract and was
promoted to chairman from president of the production studio, had
previously indicated a desire to step down, people close to him
said. He is the latest senior executive to leave AT&T Inc.'s
WarnerMedia as it shifts focus to its new direct-to-consumer
streaming platform HBO Max and is in an aggressive cost-cutting
No successor for Mr. Roth has been named.
Channing Dungey -- a former senior programming executive at
Netflix Inc. who recently left because of a reorganization there --
is the leading candidate to succeed Mr. Roth, people with knowledge
of the matter said. Ms. Dungey couldn't be reached for comment.
Within the television industry Mr. Roth is a towering figure.
Under him, Warner Bros. shows have filled the schedules of CBS,
NBC, ABC and Fox, and the studio has been a cash cow because of all
the hits it manufactured. Its roster of producers includes such
stalwarts as Chuck Lorre, J.J. Abrams, Ava DuVernay and Greg
Comedies and dramas that Mr. Roth played a key role in
developing over his lengthy career include such Warner
Bros.-produced shows as "The West Wing," "The Big Bang Theory,"
"Shameless" and "Two and a Half Men." Before joining Warner Bros.,
Mr. Roth helmed Fox's TV studio and network where he had a hand in
many hits, including "The Practice" and "The X-Files."
"For the past 22 years, I have had the privilege to be
associated with some of the most inspiring creative talent, the
most impactful television series and the most dedicated and
passionate people I have ever known," Mr. Roth said in a
Mr. Roth's genteel persona and habit of greeting everyone with a
hug belied a steely negotiator. He often tussled with networks over
time slots for Warner Bros. shows. The studio was very reluctant to
sell ownership stakes in its shows -- which led to tense
relationships with the networks, which are eager to own part of
every show on their schedules.
Warner's ability to sell to everyone has been one of its top
draws to writers and producers. The shift to becoming primarily an
inhouse content factory for its own outlets, including HBO and its
new sister streaming service HBO Max, concerned Mr. Roth, people
close to him said.
Another factor in Mr. Roth's decision is the heavy rounds of
cost-cuttings and layoffs taking place at Warner Bros. and
throughout WarnerMedia as new parent AT&T repositions the
company, the people familiar with his thinking said.
Inside WarnerMedia, morale is low as longtime executives are
either leaving or being pushed out, according to current and former
executives. There is a general concern that the studio is losing
its luster as a Hollywood icon and its autonomy under its new
owners, according to the current and former executives.
Earlier this month, Mr. Roth's presumed successor Susan Rovner
left for a top programming job at Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal.
Concern about all the changes were among the reasons for her
departure, a person familiar with her thinking said.
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar has acknowledged the company is
going through a difficult transition. In a recent memo to staff, he
said, "There's no doubt that the transformation WarnerMedia is
undergoing is on all of our minds. Uncertainty is tough and may
make it hard to focus on what we need as individuals to keep
growing personally and professionally."
The changes AT&T is instituting are going on throughout the
entertainment industry as traditional media giants pivot to focus
their efforts on creating their own streaming pipelines to
consumers. Just as Warner Bros. will be selling less to outside
networks and streaming platforms, its customer base is shrinking as
Both Walt Disney Co. and NBCUniversal recently restructured
their content creation operations to focus on their streaming
services and are also expected to buy less content from outside
suppliers such as Warner Bros.
Ms. Dungey, who left Netflix after less than two years in the
wake of the exit of original programming chief Cindy Holland, is a
well-regarded Hollywood veteran in her own right who previously was
president of entertainment for Disney's ABC. Shows she helped
develop there included "Scandal" and "Black-ish."
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 16, 2020 14:14 ET (18:14 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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