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WarnerMedia Reorg Gives Otter Media’s Tony Goncalves Oversight of Streaming Service Development

Under a reorg at AT&T’s WarnerMedia, Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media, will now lead the development of the forthcoming WarnerMedia direct-to-consumer service.

In addition, Andy Forssell, most recently COO of Otter Media and former CEO of Hulu, will move into the role of EVP and GM of the new, as-yet-unnamed streaming service, reporting to Goncalves.

With the changes, Brad Bentley is exiting WarnerMedia Entertainment group as EVP and GM for direct-to-consumer development after six months in the role.

The executive reshuffling comes as WarnerMedia has moved Otter Media under the oversight of the WarnerMedia Entertainment group, headed by Bob Greenblatt, chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer. Goncalves, who continues to oversee Otter’s existing brands and services, now reports to Greenblatt; previously he reported up to WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey, a longtime AT&T exec who took over the reins at the former Time Warner.

Kevin Reilly, president of TBS, TNT and TruTV and chief content officer for the direct-to-consumer service, will remain in that position, reporting to Greenblatt.

Last November, WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey had appointed Bentley, previously a longtime DirecTV exec, into the GM role overseeing all aspects of the company’s direct-to-consumer streaming service. The exit of Bentley, who played a similar role in the launch of DirecTV Now, suggests the WarnerMedia subscription VOD product may have been missing deadlines or other targets.

WarrnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer SVOD service will pull together content from HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner cable networks as well as original programming. It’s slated to debut in the U.S. in a beta form in the fourth quarter of 2019, with a full launch in Q1 2020.

“I’m confident that with Tony and Andy leading our product and operations, Kevin and HBO’s Casey Bloys guiding our content strategy, and with Bob at the helm, we have a formidable team creating a curated streaming service with a winning combination of content and features,” Stankey said in a statement.

About Bentley, Stankey added, “I also want to thank Brad for his leadership in bringing the project to this point in record time.”

AT&T has set big expectations for the new WarnerMedia SVOD service, which will vie against not only Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video but also Disney Plus, slated for a Nov. 12 launch. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, at an investment conference this month, said it will “become a significant driver of our growth over the next few years as we stand this product up… We think this is in the tens of millions of subscribers that we will have on this.”

Otter Media’s business comprises Fullscreen, focused on branded content and influencer marketing; anime streaming service Crunchyroll; Rooster Teeth, focused on sci-fi, gamer and anime-style content; and VRV, a subscription VOD aggregation service.

Greenblatt, in a statement, said, “The thriving Otter Media businesses are important to this company and I’m happy to welcome Tony and Andy to our direct-to-consumer team. This group’s expertise will be invaluable to our new streaming service as we aim to bring content from the best storytellers in the world to an audience that expects the highest quality digital experience.”

Goncalves joined Otter Media as CEO last year, when it was still a joint venture between AT&T and Chernin Group. (AT&T announced the deal to buy out Chernin Group’s stake in the venture in August 2018.) Previously, Goncalves was CEO of AT&T’s Digital Brands and head of strategy and business development. He came to AT&T with the telco’s acquisition of DirecTV, where he had held various management roles, most recently as SVP of the digital entertainment products group.

Forssell came to Otter from Fullscreen, where he had served as COO since 2015. He previously served as CEO of social-video startup ShowYou (acquired by Vevo), after stepping into the CEO role at Hulu with the exit of founding CEO Jason Kilar in 2013. Forssell had been at Hulu since 2007, shortly after its formation.

WarnerMedia had already taken several steps to restructure Otter Media. The changes included shifting Machinima from Warner Bros.’s aegis to Otter Media — which then effectively shut down Machinima and folded some remaining staff into groups at Fullscreen and Rooster Teeth. Otter Media also folded the Fullscreen Live in-person tour group and the Fullscreen Direct fan-engagement service.

In addition to its operating business units, Otter Media’s portfolio includes a majority stake in digital-first studio Gunpowder & Sky and minority stakes in Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine content company for women and Mars Reel high school athletes.

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