The two longtime executives have both been squeezed as the AT&T-owned company reconfigures its executive suite and refines its plans for an ambitious new streaming service launching by the end of the year. Bob Greenblatt is reportedly in line for a senior executive position, reporting to AT&T entertainment chief John Stankey, which essentially would have made Levy and Plepler obsolete.
Another key element to the executives’ departure was the decision by AT&T to merge the operations of HBO — a longtime nation-state within Time Warner — with those of TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network and other networks. A source familiar with the reorganization said more details about the company’s plans are likely to be rolled out over the next 24 hours.
A Turner spokesman declined to comment.
While Levy travels in different circles than Plepler, both execs have left an imprint on their networks in terms of personal style and approach. Levy was promoted to president of Turner in 2013. For the decade before that, he focused on sports, steadily building a potent operation with NBA, college basketball and Major League Baseball rights, as well as a formidable digital division.
Turner routinely has punched above its weight, turning Bleacher Report into a valuable asset and operating NBA TV and various league websites under joint ventures. In recent years, as NBA ratings have surged, the company has benefited and is mentioned as a contender for rights to various NFL packages when they become available over the coming years.
AT&T received the backing of a three-judge federal appeals court panel on Tuesday, affirming its $81 billion acquisition of Time Warner, which it rebranded WarnerMedia. While the telecom giant has pledged to support the existing cultures of HBO and Turner, its competitive position (with Disney, Comcast and others joining the chase of Netflix) has forced a series of changes, which are likely to continue.