Warner Bros. hires first female CEO in studio history

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Warner Bros. has hired former BBC executive Ann Sarnoff as its new CEO, marking the first time in studio history that a woman is at the helm of the company.

Sarnoff will join John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia, as a top executive overseeing content as the company heads into a streaming-heavy future. She’s stepping in to replace Kevin Tsujihara, who left the company after a Hollywood Reporter story about using his influence to help Charlotte Kirk’s acting career after they began a sexual relationship. Sarnoff is the only woman among a sea of men at the WarnerMedia executive level, including Bob Greenblatt, Jeff Zucker, Kevin Reilly, and Casey Bloys.

“Ann has shown the ability to innovate and grow revenues and has embraced the evolution taking place in our industry,” Stankey said in a press release. “I am confident she will be a great cultural fit for WarnerMedia.”

Sarnoff’s appointment may be considered a surprise among trade publications, but her areas of expertise are perfect for WarnerMedia. The company is throwing everything into its upcoming streaming service, and needs a leader who can unite the theatrical division with a new streaming business. Sarnoff spent years at BBC Worldwide working to increase distribution for channels like BBC America, which saw an increase from 68M to 80M subscribers, according to a profile on the BBC’s website. While at BBC, she also oversaw alternative monetization methods, including helping Doctor Who merchandise reach more than $100M at retail during her years with the company between 2010 and 2015.

All these skillsets are crucial to Warner Bros. and WarnerMedia going forward. WarnerMedia is expected to launch its subscription streaming service this fall. Executives at AT&T or WarnerMedia have not confirmed a specific launch date or pricing. The service will reportedly cost between $16 and $17 a month. That puts it on the higher end of streaming service costs, but it will include a subscription to HBO Now, which is currently $15.

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