Jason Kilar leaving AT&T’s WarnerMedia ahead of Discovery merger

AT&T Chief Executive Officer Jason Kilar is pictured in an undated photograph supplied by the company. (Photo: AT&T/Handout, Graphic: The Desk)

Jason Kilar, the chief executive of AT&T’s WarnerMedia subsidiary, will depart the company ahead of its merger with Discovery, Inc.

The announcement was made in an e-mail sent to WarnerMedia employees on Tuesday ahead of Kilar’s planned appearance on financial news channel CNBC.

Kilar’s future at AT&T has been in question since AT&T announced last year its plan to spin off WarnerMedia into a separate entertainment unit, one that would merge with Discovery. The merger is expected to be finalized later this month.

David Zaslav, the current chief executive of Discovery who will oversee the combined Warner Bros. Discovery, does not intend to name a replacement for Kilar, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

A former executive of the Walt Disney Company’s Hulu streaming service, Kilar joined AT&T in May 2020 in large part to help oversee the development and launch of WarnerMedia’s blockbuster streaming service HBO Max.

Kilar drew intense criticism shortly after HBO Max launched due to a lack of carriage agreement with Roku and Amazon, which account for around 70 percent of the streaming market. That misstep meant HBO Max was unavailable to most streaming households in the United States unless customers used a different device like a phone or purchased a device running a different platform like Apple TV or Android TV (now Google TV).

Kilar was vindicated in part due to the coronavirus pandemic, which spurred a decision to place new Warner Bros. movies on HBO Max at a time when most movie theaters were closed. By then, the carriage issue with Roku and Amazon were largely resolved, and the films helped generate new interest and subscribers in HBO Max, which costs $15 a month.

The executive also helped launch HBO Max in international markets, though its adoption outside of the United States has been slow.

During his appearance on CNBC, Kilar said his duty and loyalty to his team at WarnerMedia necessitated his decision to remain on board after the deal with Discovery was announced.

” I love the team, the mission, I love this company,” Kilar said. “There was never a doubt in my mind I was going to stay through the end until the transition.”

Kilar did not say what his job prospects were as his time with WarnerMedia comes to an end. His last day is expected to be Friday.

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