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Warner Bros. Wants to Rev Up Kid’s Content With Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera

For Warner Bros. chief Kevin Tsujihara, job one in the restructuring of WarnerMedia assets unveiled Monday is make the studio a major player in the business of kids, family, and young adult entertainment.

The decision to move Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Boomerang under the studio’s management is an effort to better marry the linear TV brands with Warner Bros.’ considerable animation assets which include the Looney Tunes and Hanna Barbera vaults. Warner Bros. is also claiming another big piece of its movie heritage in taking over the management of Turner Classic Movies.

Warner Bros. for years has sought to boost the volume and craft a more consistent franchise strategy for its many kid-friendly properties. Tsujihara said bringing the former Turner toon cablers into the Warner Bros. fold will make it easier to align priorities for production, consumer products, and marketing pushes.

“We talked about it a lot: if you started with a blank sheet of paper, how would you create a kids business? From the start you’d make it global,” Tsujihara told Variety.

It’s expected that film group chief Toby Emmerich and Warner Bros. Pictures execs Courtenay Valenti and Allison Abbate will put more emphasis on revving up kid- and family-focused franchises that can be coordinated with TV and digital projects. Demand for young adult-targeted live-action series is booming from the major streaming platforms, as is the appetite for high-end animated series. A kids and family section will be a big piece of the suite of streaming content options that WarnerMedia intends to launch in beta form by year’s end.

The WarnerMedia restructuring has been seen as a precursor to significant layoffs at the studio, but Tsujihara and others dispute the notion of mass pinkslips to come. But there will inevitably be consolidation and elimination of redundancies.

“A lot of people are saying this has been a cost-cutting exercise. I view it as a better alignment of the platform to the content, especially with kids and young adults,” Tsujihara said. “And TCM will provide a great opportunity to further monetize the Warner film vault.”

Christina Miller, the Atlanta-based president of Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Boomerang, is being eyed for a larger kids and family role at Warner Bros. Tsujihara said the specifics of the management hierarchy for the kids and family initiative is still being sorted out.

Warner Bros. is also inheriting AT&T’s Otter Media digital content division as part of the corporate shakeup. Tsujihara sees much of the content that flows through Otter Media as a fit with the studio’s video game division and budding DC Universe platform.

Warner Bros.’ experience in managing the CW broadcast network partnership with CBS Corp. has given them the confidence that linear networks can be profitable when they serve as engines for content licensing opportunities around the world. The planned streaming platform is also a different bet on a new form of wholly owned distribution, a platform that will be hungry for all the content that the creatives under Warner Bros.’ roof can deliver. Tsujihara’s teams will work closely with Bob Greenblatt in his new role as chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct to Consumer in curating content for the still-unnamed service.

“There’s going to be a big chunk of our library product licensed to the service. I think there will be original product that comes from Warner Bros. produced for the service,” Tsujihara said of the studio’s contribution to the WarnerMedia platform. “I think there will also be a kids piece coordinated with the kids vertical. We can look at multiple digital and linear platforms to showcase characters to drive consumer products and movies.”

See the full memo that Tsujihara sent to Warner Bros. employees on Monday below.

Dear Colleagues:

First, I’d like to welcome our colleagues at Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Adult Swim, TCM and Otter Media to the global Warner Bros. family.  I hope everyone has had the opportunity to read John Stankey’s message from this morning regarding some very important organizational changes that are redefining our parent company, WarnerMedia.

While change is never easy, a realigned WarnerMedia will be better-positioned, better-resourced and better able to compete on all fronts.  We are literally entering a new chapter in our company’s history.

I’ve known and worked with Bob Greenblatt throughout the years, and I’m looking forward to working with him and the newly combined WarnerMedia Entertainment to fully maximize our companies’ assets and efforts. 

Here at Warner Bros., incorporating Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim into the company will truly make Kids/Young Adults/Animation a fundamental pillar of our business.  This newly combined operation will allow us to take an integrated, global approach to all our kids and animation businesses (TV, film, games, consumer products) like never before, using the companies’ IP, talent and legacies to create an animation powerhouse.

Turner Classic Movies is also a natural fit with Warner Bros., given we have the largest and most valuable film library in the business.  Partnering TCM and Warner Bros. will help us give fans more of what they want in new and exciting ways, while building on the Studio’s almost-100-year history as a leader in filmed entertainment.

Otter Media speaks loudly—and effectively—to the millennial/Gen Z audience and brings together highly passionate communities through content.  Bringing our iconic brands, infrastructure and library together with Otter’s creative talent, reach and diverse set of communities will help us grow this important audience segment for Warner Bros. and WarnerMedia content and services. This move also enables us to create the scale necessary for passion-driven digital media companies to be successful.

Additionally, all activities around consumer products for WarnerMedia properties will now fall under the WBCP umbrella.

As we welcome these businesses into the Warner Bros. family, we are also reaffirming our commitment to being the number one destination for creative talent.  We will continue to work with the industry’s best writers, directors, producers, actors, designers and developers to create the broadest and most diverse roster of film, television, game and digital properties.  Warner Bros.’ production entities are an unmatched content engine, supplying both third-party and WarnerMedia platforms with the world’s best entertainment.  And that’s not going to change. 

Warner Bros. is now positioned to form deeper and more meaningful relationships with our fans and consumers.  Combined with AT&T’s reach and first-in-class technology, the opportunity is even bigger.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge Richard Plepler and David Levy.  Richard and David have been my colleagues and friends for more than two decades.  Both have made tremendous contributions to the success of WarnerMedia and its predecessor, Time Warner, and both have been terrific partners to Warner Bros. and to me over the years.  I’m sad to see them leave the company, but I know they’ll be hugely successful at whatever they choose to do next.

I’m sure you have many questions, and we’ll continue to provide additional information as it becomes available in the days and weeks ahead, including at the State of the Studio on March 14th.  I hope you will join us.

Again, I’m excited about what’s ahead for Warner Bros. and for all of us.  I’m proud to call all of you colleagues and I’m glad we’re on this journey together.

All best,

Kevin

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