LOS ANGELES -- AT&T on Monday chose a Hollywood outsider, Ann Sarnoff, to run its recently acquired Warner Bros. movie and television studio, which will play a major role in the conglomerate's coming streaming service.
Sarnoff, a New Yorker whose career has included leadership roles at Nickelodeon, the Women's National Basketball Association, Dow Jones and BBC America, will take over as chief executive at Warner Bros. later this summer. Sarnoff has no film experience, which AT&T may see as an asset: She will not be beholden to entrenched Hollywood practices at a time when the entertainment business is rapidly moving online.
Her new boss, John Stankey, the chief executive of AT&T's WarnerMedia division, said in a statement that Sarnoff has a "proven track record of innovation, creativity and business results."
In a phone interview, Sarnoff emphasized her ability to innovate and develop growth strategies.
"It's figuring out the potential of brands and properties and super-serving customers," she said. "It's looking at more marketing routes."
Sarnoff acknowledged that she has some learning to do before she becomes a major Hollywood executive.
"I literally need to step on the lot," she said. "It's such an iconic studio with such a strong management team. I want to hear from the team and jointly develop strategies."
Sarnoff, 57, succeeds Kevin Tsujihara, who was ousted in March after The Hollywood Reporter uncovered an apparent effort by Tsujihara to have a woman with whom he had an extramarital sexual relationship cast in Warner productions. He denied any corporate wrongdoing.
Sarnoff, the first woman to lead Warner Bros., has most recently been the president of BBC Studios Americas, where she has worked on a streaming service, BritBox, and led efforts to expand BBC franchises like Doctor Who and Top Gear. Before joining the BBC in 2010, Sarnoff was president of Dow Jones Ventures, where she expanded a conference business tied to The Wall Street Journal.
She came to Dow Jones from the WNBA, where she served as chief operating officer. Earlier in her career, Sarnoff worked in children's television, helping to build a consumer products business for Nickelodeon.
Founded by four brothers in 1923, Warner Bros. is one of Hollywood's most storied studios. Casablanca and Gone With the Wind are among the classics in its library. The company is home to characters including Wonder Woman, Harry Potter, Batman, Bugs Bunny and Scooby-Doo.
Business on 06/25/2019
Print Headline: Outsider to lead Warner Bros.