Jason Killer, head of WarnerMedia, is leaving before Discovery Merger

Jason Killer, head of WarnerMedia, who came up with ambitious plans for the company’s single streaming service and worked effectively like a lame duck for half his term, announced on Tuesday that he was leaving the company.

The departure, which was widely expected, comes just days before WarnerMedia merged with Discovery and a new team took the lead.

“Leading this team was an honor in my life,” Mr. Killer wrote in a memo to staff. “My heart is full, and I am grateful to each and every one of you. There is no better team on the planet than this one, and I will taste every last step as I visit Barbank a few more times this week, this team will always be in my memory.”

John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia’s parent company AT&T, was hired by John Stankey in April 2020, just weeks before the outbreak and one month before the launch of the company’s streaming service HBO Max.

Mr. Killer, one of the founders of Hulu and an veteran of Amazon, focused on bringing the company’s streaming service to a stable location. A few months into his tenure, he began formulating a plan called Project Popcorn, which was his most controversial decision. As the epidemic spread, Mr. Killer announced in a December 2020 post on Medium that Warner Bros. 2021 film Slate would be released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, a decision that blinded most filmmakers and their representatives.

Streaming analysts applauded the decision and HBO Max had a strong year. According to AT&T, HBO and HBO Max finished 2021 with more than 70 million customers worldwide, exceeding domestic expectations.

But the decision came as a shock to Hollywood’s creative circles. Richard Lovett, co-chairman of the Creative Artists Agency, called it “a symbol of a selfish corporate strategy aimed at benefiting your company in times of industrial catastrophe.” Filmmakers such as Dennis Villeneuve, Christopher Nolan, and David Chase criticized it.

Just when Mr. Killer was formulating his vision, his AT&T executives were secretly planning to pull him out of the entertainment business. In February 2021, one month after Project Popcorn, Mr. Stanky began discussions with David Jaslav, chief executive of Discovery, about integration, a conversation that lasted until March and April.

Mr Stankey kept Mr Killer in the dark about the deal until it was announced in May. Once the merger is finalized, Mr. Jaslav will take over the Warner Bros. Discovery Company.

Mr. Killer also oversaw the February departure of CNN chief Jeff Zucker, which made headlines for weeks. Mr Zucker said he was leaving because he had a romantic relationship with a subordinate, Alison Golst, and failed to disclose it to the company. Mr Killer did not provide any details or alternative explanations, much to the chagrin of most CNN staff.

Two weeks later, Mr. Killer told staff members that Mr. Zucker and Mrs. Golst had “violated company policy,” including CNN’s news standards and practices, a charge both denied.

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