Coverage: Ann Sarnoff becomes first woman CEO of Warner
Warner Bros. named BBC America’s Ann Sarnoff its new chief executive officer.
CNN’s Brian Stelter had the news:
Ann Sarnoff is about to become the new chair and CEO of Warner Bros. — and the first female chief in the studio’s storied history.
Sarnoff’s appointment was announced on Monday by John Stankey, the CEO of WarnerMedia, which is also the parent company of CNN Business.
Sarnoff is currently the president of BBC Studios Americas, with about a decade of experience at the BBC. She previously held executive roles at Dow Jones, the Women’s National Basketball Association, and Viacom.
“She brings a consistent and proven track record of innovation, creativity and business results to lead an incredibly successful studio to its next chapter of growth,” Stankey said in a statement.
A female studio chief is a rarity in Hollywood, even though the industry’s trade association says women account for 51% of moviegoers in the United States.
Jake Coyle reported the announcement came as a surprise:
Her appointment follows the departure in March of Kevin Tsujihara, who stepped down after misconduct allegations. WarnerMedia chief executive John Stankey announced Sarnoff’s hiring, concluding a three-month search for one of Hollywood’s most prized posts. Many had expected WarnerMedia to turn to an experienced film executive like movie-division head Toby Emmerich, who was part of the interim committee running the studio after Tsujihara’s departure, Disney veteran Anne Sweeney, or former Fox chief Stacey Snider.
In March, Tsujihara stepped down following claims that he promised roles to an actress with whom he was having an affair. Tsujihara, whose attorney denied that Tsujihara had any direct role in the woman’s hiring, said he was departing to avoid being a distraction.
The rupture came at an awkward time for WarnerMedia, which has just expanded Tsujihara’s role at the global conglomerate. AT&T last year acquired Time Warner, which was renamed WarnerMedia, and the company is planning to launch a streaming service later this year.
Rebecca Keegan had some quotes from the new CEO for the Hollywood Reporter:
“I’ve worked in many different companies with many different cultures,” says Sarnoff, speaking by phone Monday morning to THR after WarnerMedia unveiled her hiring. “I don’t know the details and the inside story of the [Warner Bros.] culture…. But I look forward to bringing my style and my perspective into the culture at Warner Bros., a style that’s collaborative, respectful of talent, of knowing of who’s smart and who to listen to.”
Though Sarnoff, 57, will be a new face to some in Hollywood, the Massachusetts native comes to the role with decades of experience in media and entertainment companies. Prior to joining BBC Worldwide, she was president of Dow Jones Ventures, COO of the WNBA and executive vice president for consumer products and business development at Nickelodeon.
Sarnoff says her conversations with WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey about the job focused on the dramatic changes in consumer behavior facing the media giant, which will launch its own streaming service later this year.
“We talked about all the shape-shifting happening, the disruption of how people are consuming media and the new routes to market,” says Sarnoff, who participated in the launch of a streaming service called Britbox at the BBC, for people who love British programming but can’t find it on more traditional media. “How do you take an amazing set of assets and continue to evolve and address the dynamics in the business?”
Warner Bros. motion picture and television chiefs Toby Emmerich and Peter Roth will report to Sarnoff. Having worked at Nickelodeon in the ’90s, she brings an expertise on an audience all the studios hope to better reach. “I was at Nickelodeon when millennials were born, and I know a lot about them, because they were our audience,” Sarnoff says. “I’ve watched them grow up, and I know a little about how they consume media.”