After more than two decades leading Warner Bros.’ television operations, chairman Peter Roth has decided to leave his perch at the storied TV studio.
Roth is slated to step down in early 2021. He and WarnerMedia studios and networks group chief Ann Sarnoff had been discussing the transition for “some time,” per a statement from Sarnoff, adding that there’s “never a great moment to say goodbye.”
“He’s delivered hundreds of shows, thousands of episodes and millions of viewers, with one singular vision – to work with the best people and to make the best television series,” said Sarnoff. “In addition to being well respected by his colleagues and competitors, actors, writers, directors and producers, he is the force behind iconic, pop-culture-defining television shows we all know and love, including ‘The West Wing,’ ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ ‘Gilmore Girls,’ ‘Two And A Half Men,’ ‘Gossip Girl,’ ‘Supernatural,’ ‘The Flash’ and countless others. We’re thankful for his contributions to our company and wish him the very best.”
In an industry where execs play musical chairs every few years, Roth has remained steadfast in his role overseeing the biggest studio in town. He first joined in 1999 as the president of WBTV, and under his long tenure, 32 scripted primetime series have gone on to reach the 100-episode milestone, including the 279-episode “The Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men,” “The West Wing,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Smallville,” “Gossip Girl,” “Shameless,” “George Lopez,” “The Flash,” “Supernatural,” “The Vampire Diaries,” and “One Tree Hill.”
Roth had previously served as president of Fox Entertainment, developing shows such as “Ally McBeal,” “That ’70s Show” and “Family Guy.” Prior to that, he spent time as president of production at Twentieth Network Television and president of Stephen J. Cannell Productions. Roth’s TV career began in the mid-’70s as a manager of children’s programming at ABC.
Over the course of his 22 years at the company, the business has seen dramatic shifts, and the old-school model of television that WBTV excelled in — one in which studios spared no expense for talent and packages designed to generate major profit in syndication after years on a network — has shifted to adapt to changes in the marketplace, particularly with the race between media giants to develop robust streaming services.
With Hulu co-founder Jason Kilar taking over as the chief exec of AT&T-owned WarnerMedia in the spring, Warner Bros.’ parent company has since engaged in a broad restructuring that has included layoffs of hundreds of WarnerMedia employees, including at Warner Bros., HBO and DC Entertainment.
Roth’s pending departure has been long in the works, however, according to a source familiar with the situation, and is unrelated to the ongoing reorganization at WarnerMedia. WBTV is now part of the compant’s newly created studio and networks group, alongside Warner Bros. Pictures Group, HBO, HBO Max, DC, Cartoon Network, WB Animation, and basic cablers TNT, TBS and truTV.
No successor for Roth has been named at this time. Susan Rovner, who had largely been expected to succeed Roth, made the jump to become NBCUniversal’s TV and streaming programming chief.
“Working at Warner Bros. has been the greatest, most meaningful, most rewarding experience of my career,” said Roth. “For the past 22 years, I have had the privilege to be associated with some of the most inspiring creative talent, the most impactful television series and the most dedicated and passionate people I have ever known. It has long been my dream to be able to say farewell at the right time in the right way and for the right reason. I’m grateful to Ann Sarnoff for giving me that opportunity and to my Warner Bros. colleagues, past and present, for giving me what has been the gift of a lifetime. I look forward to the next chapter of my career and remaining connected to those people who have meant so much to me.”