“The last year and a half have been among the most fulfilling of my professional life,” Kilar, who invoked Hollywood’s wrath with his decision late last year to move all of Warner Bros’ 2021 slate to same-day release on HBO Max, told MSNBC anchor and moderator Stephanie Ruhle at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills.
“I will be running WarnerMedia in Q1,” a tight-smiling Kilar declared later in the sit-down after deflecting constant questions about his future plans. However, the controlled executive allowed a peek into his true state of mind when he was asked by Ruhle at one point whether he was disappointed at the coming end of his WarnerMedia tenure.
“I’m human,” he replied, “so in that context, yes.”
Facing a sell-by date of next year once AT&T’s planned multibillion-dollar spinoff of WarnerMedia into a new entity run by Discovery CEO David Zaslav takes hold (pending regulatory approval), Kilar’s future is in flux. As to what role he could have in the new company, AT&T CEO John Stankey called the former Hulu CEO a “fantastic talent,” but punted on specifics.
“David’s got decisions he’s gotta make across a broad cross-section of how he wants to organize the business and who will be in what roles moving forward in this transition period,” added Stankey, the telecommunications boss and former WarnerMedia leader.
Whispers are that Kilar could end up back at Amazon, where he was one of Jeff Bezos’ brain-trust execs from 1997-2006. If joining up again with the giant now run by Andy Jassy doesn’t come to pass, the bet is the ambitious Kilar will find a perch high up in the tech world one way or another. Perhaps leaning into that, Kilar said, “I won’t bet against Andy” and praised Bezos in front of the well-heeled Beverly Hilton crowd.
Promising to spend “north of 18” billion dollars on content over the next year in the competitive streaming space that includes Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, Amazon Prime and more, Kilar acknowledged he botched the landing with his decision in late 2020 to take a hybrid release approach with Warner Bros’ 17-movie slate. “We endeavored to do the right thing in terms of communication,” the CEO said.
“Change is hard,” Kilar also noted, adding that he and his team should have spent a month or more having “170 conversations” with creatives, talent and agencies.
“Our intentions were good,” he said.
Motion picture + series sets often need street lights, parking meters, + traffic signals. These are some that we keep in the back of the property department on the Warner Bros lot. Funny to see these during my walk and talk 1:1s…standing ready to respond to the call of duty. 🎬 pic.twitter.com/ycx6tZPOUx
— Jason Kilar (@jasonkilar) September 28, 2021
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