Posted on September 2, 2022

Laid-Off HBO Max Execs Reveal Warner Bros. Discovery Is Killing Off Diversity and Courting ‘Middle America’

Adam Manno, Daily Beast, August 25, 2022

Former HBO Max executives say the streaming service has been left with few people of color to oversee its diverse slate of programming as Warner Bros. Discovery continues its ongoing corporate reshuffling.

The platform reportedly laid off close to 70 people this month. That includes the entire teams overseeing unscripted, kids and family, and international content, according to two former HBO Max execs who asked not to be named.

Those three divisions, responsible for buying shows from production companies and creators and working closely with them during production, are now completely gone.

One former employee says as many as 13 people of color previously in charge of developing shows like The Gordita Chronicles and the Spanish-language docuseries Menudo: Forever Young have been let go, likely influencing the types of shows and movies that are greenlit moving forward. {snip}

“I don’t think anyone knows just how white the staff is,” one former executive told The Daily Beast.

Former HBO Max staffers say there are barely any non-white people left in the upper ranks of content, with one naming Joey Chavez, an executive vice president of drama, as one of the few people of color still there. {snip}

The layoffs have “amplified the lack of diversity at HBO,” another former executive told The Daily Beast. “HBO is the most homogenous part of this umbrella. Instead of trying to figure out how to integrate some of the [Max] executives into HBO, they just made this sweeping cut of three divisions: kids, family, and international. A lot of Black and brown people lost their jobs.”

Ever since parent company Warner Bros. merged with Discovery earlier this year, employees at Warner have grappled with the changing values of the newly created company. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was charged with helping Warner crawl out of a $50 billion hole. He came in like a wrecking ball, tearing up CNN’s $300 million streaming service CNN+ and vowing to pull the Warner-owned news channel away from “advocacy” journalism.

More changes have come in the past couple of weeks.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Batgirl, the $90 million film planned for HBO Max starring Afro-Latina actress Leslie Grace, would be shelved completely in favor of a tax write-off. {snip}

Former Warner employees believe these changes are just as much about business as they are about reshaping the ideological perception of Warner properties. It all points to the same end, they say: A rejection of left-wing or highly diverse content in favor of more homogenous, Middle America-friendly fare. The lack of diversity in content staff might just make that goal easier.


An internal graphic comparing the audiences of Discovery+ and HBO Max showed a stark demographic difference between the two streamers. Where HBO Max is popular with diverse groups, single people, and drivers of hybrid cars, Discovery+ is popular with white, married people who drive SUVs, minivans, and “traveling buses.” HBO Max viewers are on TikTok and Instagram, while Discovery+ viewers use social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, with the added caveat, “if any.” HBO Max viewers have no kids. Discovery+ viewers are either “empty nesters” or have grandchildren. Discovery may be trying to pull HBO into its orbit as it focuses on what it does best.