Warner Bros. has appointed Ann Sarnoff as its brand new CEO, marking the first time in the company's history that the position has been held by a woman. Warner Bros. is currently undergoing a period of major restructuring under WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey. Seeking to adapt in a market increasingly dominated by streaming services such as Netflix, Warner Bros. is in the process of shuffling personnel in key positions. Earlier this month, the Warner Bros. scripted television development team was overhauled, with key positions being taken by the quartet of Clancy Collins-White, Adrienne Turner, Maddy Horne and Odetta Watkins. Unfortunately, some changes at the studio have been enforced, and former CEO, Kevin Tsujihara, vacated his position earlier this year after reports of inappropriate behavior emerged.
Tsujihara is far from the only major figure in the movie business to quit in the wake of such allegations. Pixar's John Lasseter moved away from Disney following reports of misconduct, Star Trek: Discovery's Anthony Rapp revealed an unwanted encounter with Kevin Spacey and numerous other directors, actors and producers have been called out by colleagues for similar reasons. This wave of accusations was triggered by the Harvey Weinstein scandal that began in late 2017, where the scale of Hollywood's problem with sexual assault and misconduct began to come to light. Since then, the Time's Up movement has sought to improve gender equality within the entertainment industry and a major part of this is ensuring women are represented at an executive level.
Variety are now reporting that Tsujihara's replacement will be Ann Sarnoff. Previously president of BBC Studios Americas, Sarnoff is said to have been an unexpected choice for the position, with names such as Stacey Snider and Nancy Dubuc among the favorites prior to this latest announcement. Before joining the BBC in 2010, Sarnoff held executive positions at Viacom, Nickelodeon and the WNBA, among others. Sarnoff is the first female in Warner Bros. 100-year history to hold the position. John Stankey said of the appointment:
“I am delighted Ann is joining the WarnerMedia team and excited to work side by side with such a talented and accomplished individual. She brings a consistent and proven track record of innovation, creativity and business results to lead an incredibly successful studio to its next chapter of growth.”
While Sarnoff may not have been the obvious pick for Warner Bros.' new CEO, that doesn't mean she doesn't hold the necessary qualifications. During her time at the BBC, Sarnoff helped develop the worldwide popularity of shows such as Doctor Who and Top Gear, and was instrumental in the development of the BritBox on-demand service. With Warner Bros. openly seeking to compete with Netflix, it makes sense to appoint a name with proven success in the streaming field. Nevertheless, moving from the BBC's international arm to the CEO of a major studio still represents a big step up for Sarnoff.
Warner Bros. is evidently demonstrating its commitment to increasing the representation of women at an executive level. It could perhaps be said that this evolution has only come about due to the various accusations and issues that have come to light in recent times, and while that may be true, it's perhaps a case of "better late than never" as Sarnoff takes her new position.