HBO Max Laying Off 70 Staffers as Warner Bros. Discovery Shuts Down Streamer’s Reality Unit

After weeks of speculation, Warner Bros. Discovery is ready to reveal some of the changes that will take place at HBO Max, in advance of next year’s anticipated combination of the HBO Max and Discovery+ streaming services. And as expected, HBO Max will downsize its reality programming department.

As part of the changes, around 14% of the staff under the oversight of HBO/HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys will be reduced. That translates to around 70 employees who will be laid off in this restructure.

As part of the changes, Sarah Aubrey, the current head of original content at HBO Max, will now focus her oversight on the Max Originals drama slate. As part of the changes, she will now also work in international programming strategy alongside the Warner Bros. Discovery International team, led by Gerhard Zeiler. Joey Chavez, exec VP Programming, will continue to report to Aubrey as lead for Max Originals drama.

On the HBO Max comedy side, the department will now report to Amy Gravitt, head of comedy and exec VP, programming for HBO, which will now align HBO and Max Original comedy under one team. Suzanna Makkos, who headed up HBO Max comedy, will now report into Gravitt.

As has been intensely speculated, the Max Originals non-fiction (aka its reality team) & live-action family originals departments will be limited in the new arrangement. The rest of Bloys’ HBO programming direct reports remain unchanged.

In the case of reality, with a combined product soon to include thousands of hours of reality television from the Discovery side, the company didn’t believe it made sense to have a group at HBO Max continuing to develop and produce reality when that genre will be well-covered. Existing shows like “FBoy Island” will continue to run, and there will still be staffers in place to keep the lights on with shows such as that.

As for moving away from the kids content, it’s part of a recognition that building that business would have to be at a much larger scale, and the appetite for that programming on HBO Max doesn’t justify such an investment at the moment.

Other departments impacted will include HBO Max’s casting group; HBO doesn’t have in-house casting and prefers for the executives to have a direct relationship with the casting director. Also pulling back is acquisitions, the team that does third party library and HBO pay one deals. With HBO’s last external pay one deal coming with “Avatar” in 2023, and companies moving all of their output inhouse for the most part, the need for a large acquisitions group was no longer necessary. There will be some library and pay two and pay three deals, but most major acquisitions will go through Warner.

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