The de-AT&Tification of WarnerMedia is underway. All but two members of the entertainment company’s executive team are departing as it gets swallowed up by Discovery, Warner said today. The two survivors are holdovers from Warner’s pre-AT&T era. Nearly all the others either came from the telecom giant or were installed by it. The shakeup is a reminder of the cultural shift underway in this merger. Discovery’s DNA is in television, making it a much closer fit with WarnerMedia’s entertainment business than AT&T ever was.
In other words, Discovery is about to liberate a company that for the past four years has been under barbarian control. At least, that’s how you can imagine some Warner lifers might see things. But as alien as AT&T was when its team took over the firm, then called Time Warner, its reign wasn’t without value. While it took the telecom folks a little while to get things straight, their installation of Jason Kilar and his cadre of ex-Hulu executives likely helped advance the competitiveness of Warner’s HBO Max streaming service more than it would have without Kilar’s input. Yes, Kilar’s central emphasis on streaming was probably alienating to entertainment lifers at Warner and beyond. But it’s what Warner needed as it plunged into direct rivalry with Netflix.