A spokesman for WarnerMedia declined to comment.
Levy’s expected departure comes as the telecommunications giant moves more forcefully to integrate the media company it purchased for $81 billion in June. Earlier this week, a federal appeals court reaffirmed the purchase, which had been contested by the U.S. Department of Justice. AT&T had kept WarnerMedia separate from its other operations in case a decision put the acquisition in jeopardy, but the judgment gives the company reason to put more of an imprint on WarnerMedia and its prize assets: HBO, Turner and Warner Brothers. On Thursday, word also emerged that Richard Plepler, the veteran leader of HBO, would depart as well.
Levy has been a key executive at Turner for years and with good reason. He has oversight of the company’s valuable sports contracts with the National Basketball Association and has ultimate supervision of its advertising sales and contracts with affiliates. He is one of the primary architects of Turner’s joint pact with CBS to televise the much coveted NCAA men’s basketball tournament and its recent involvement with the e-sports E-League joint venture with WME/IMG.
There has been internal speculation that AT&T offered Levy a role overseeing sports — a critical position at any modern media company, as live games have proven to be one of the few video-entertainment formats resistant to time-shifted viewing, and still command larger audiences that are valuable to advertisers. Whatever the proposition, Levy decided to leave.
He has long harbored ambitions to run Turner. In 2013, he was promoted to president of the unit, which houses big cable networks like TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network and CNN. But he had to report to John Martin, the former Time Warner CFO who was named to oversee Turner at the time. Levy was given responsibility for all of Turner’s domestic ad revenue, as well as oversight of creative and business activity of the unit’s signature networks: TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, truTV, Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim, as well as their digital brand extensions.
But that command became cloudier as the years progressed. After AT&T initially bought Time Warner, Levy was one of several executives reporting to the WarnerMedia’s new chief, John Stankey. Under Stankey’s direction, it looks less likely that the company will need a Turner CEO. Indeed, AT&T executives have suggested in recent months that they are likely to tamp down investment in original content for Turner’s big cable networks, TBS and TNT, in favor of ramping up creative production for HBO, which is expected to stand at the center of a new WarnerMedia streaming service expected to debut in 2019.
Levy started working at Turner when he was just 24, and has spent more than three decades at the company.