HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler is following two of his most heralded series out the door — the executive who green-lit “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” is leaving the company in 2019.
Plepler announced his departure in a memo to HBO staff Thursday afternoon.
“Hard as it is to think about leaving the company I love, and the people I love in it, it is the right time for me to do so,” the letter reads. “It has been the great joy of my professional life to share this ride with you over these many years. And the great honor of my professional life to be your CEO.”
The news comes soon after reports of WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey meeting with former NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt to discuss a new position at the company. Some reports claimed the position would make Greenblatt overseer of HBO, Turner, and the planned WarnerMedia OTT service. This follows AT&T’s estimated $85 million acquisition of Time Warner nine months prior, as well as Tuesday’s announcement that the U.S. Justice Department will not appeal the merger.
Plepler took over as HBO’s chairman and CEO in 2013 after serving as co-president from 2007 to 2012. Among his many heralded credits are “Game of Thrones,” “Veep” — both of which are ending in 2019 — “True Blood,” “The Leftovers,” and “True Detective,” while he also oversaw HBO’s launch of the successful streaming platforms HBO Go and HBO Now.
As WarnerMedia looks to compete with Netflix and other streaming services in terms of original content production, the future of HBO has been cloudy. Some have claimed HBO is turning into a production company for WarnerMedia: churning out as many shows as possible while drawing on the brand’s reputation to boost releases. Stankey previously announced his plans to ramp up the output of originals, a vision which might not gel with Plepler’s focus on delivering “prestige TV.” Sources recently told Variety that Stankey is considering combining HBO and Turner in some fashion, eventually making various jobs redundant, while immediately agitating Plepler and Turner president David Levy.
The departure comes shortly after another top HBO executive — former co-head of drama David Levine — left to become the President of Television at Anonymous Content. In December, Stankey put the former head of TBS & TNT Kevin Reilly in charge of overseeing the WarnerMedia streaming service, in yet another sign of internal changes to come.
Read Plepler’s full exit letter below.
My dad always gave the best advice. Whenever there was a difficult decision to make, he counseled that since no one could ever have perfect visibility into the future, the best thing you could do was trust your instincts. It has been a touchstone for me throughout my life, and I have found myself returning to it again recently as I think about what is an inflection point in the life of this wonderful company. Hard as it is to think about leaving the company I love, and the people I love in it, it is the right time for me to do so.
In the past weeks, I’ve thought a lot about the incredible journey of this company in the nearly 28 years that I have been blessed to be here. It’s a journey of great pride and accomplishment because so many of you, and many others before us, have made HBO a cultural and business phenomenon. Thanks to all of you, we are today churning on all cylinders both creatively and as a business. Thanks to all of you, I can move on to the next chapter of my life knowing that the best team in the industry remains here to carry on our continued progress and success. As I have said before, this is the team of teams.
It has been the great joy of my professional life to share this ride with you over these many years. And the great honor of my professional life to be your CEO. I don’t have the words to express my gratitude for the support and talent that made our success together possible. But suffice it to say, my love for this place, and for all of you, is deeply a part of me and will last a lifetime. I look forward over the coming weeks to thanking as many of you as I can for the thousands of contributions big and small that have made “this thing of ours,” to quote Tony Soprano, so special. I have told John, who has been nothing but gracious since we spoke, that I would work closely with him to assure a seamless and organic transition.
We’ve created a great and unique enterprise and I know that you will protect its legacy and do all to enhance its future in the years to come.
Know that I will always be cheering loudly, even when I am outside this building, as HBO continues to thrive.
With respect, admiration, and gratitude,