HBO Max Makes Huge Changes to Its Reality TV Programming

Warner Bros. Discovery began layoffs at HBO Max, which includes shrinking the streamer's reality programming unit. Around 14% of staff under HBO/HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys will be laid off, or about 70 employees, reports Variety. The move to cut the reality programming team was widely expected, especially since the Warner Bros.-Discovery merger means many of the hit reality franchises from TLC, Discovery, HGTV, and other brands are now under the same corporate umbrella as HBO Max.

Sarah Aubrey, who leads HBO Max's original content team, will focus on HBO Max's dramas and will work in international strategy with the Warner Bros. Discovery international team under Gerhard Zeiler. Joey Chavez, an executive VP for programming, will report to Aubrey and lead Max Originals drama. The HBO and Max Original comedy units will be merged into one team overseen by Amy Gravitt. Suzanna Makkos, who led HBO Max comedy, will report to Gravitt.

The biggest changes at HBO Max came in the Max Originals non-fiction and live-action family originals departments. Warner Bros. Discovery didn't believe it made sense to continue producing reality television for HBO Max alone when Discovery's brands are far better known for reality television. Existing shows like FBoy Island will survive, but there are no new reality shows being developed for HBO Max. A few employees from the Max Originals reality team will keep their jobs to "keep the lights on," as Variety put it, but several top executives have already been impacted by the layoffs.

Warner Bros. Discovery also said earlier this month they are moving away from producing live-action and animated content for children. The company believes it would not be worth investing in that sphere, so there won't be anything new coming in that sector. Instead, HBO Max will rely on library content from Cartoon Network and other brands to provide some family content on the streamer.

Several other departments were impacted by the layoffs. HBO Max will dispense with its internal casting group, and will instead rely on outside casting directors like HBO already does. The team that handles acquiring third-party content was also cut. Most of the media conglomerates are already limiting the amount of third-party content on their streamers, so Warner Bros. Discovery doesn't see the need for a big acquisitions team, sources told Variety.

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During Warner Bros. Discovery's quarterly earnings report earlier this month, the company said the combined HBO Max-Discovery+ streaming platform will launch by the summer of 2023. It's still unclear what the company will call the new service. Warner Bros. Discovery said its two platforms have a combined 91.2 million subscribers.