HBO and HBO Max Reality Show Staff Get 'Red Wedding' Treatment

Rumors of Warner Bros. Discovery’s cuts proved true after the company announced it was merging its two disparate streaming services.

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Melted swords on stone from out of HBO Max's upcoming show The House of the Dragon
Unlike the ruling Targaryen family of HBO Max’s upcoming Game of Thrones prequel, Warner Bros. Discovery won’t be melting the swords of all the ex staff it’s cutting.
Photo: Rodin Eckenroth (Getty Images)

There can’t be two different realities, or—as Warner Bros. Discovery understands it—they can only display one slate of reality TV programming at any one time. After the company announced they were merging HBO Max and Discovery+ earlier this month (the latter is much more known for its reality TV content) internal memos show that the company is cutting a big portion of the people behind HBO Max’s reality programming.

Seventy staff members, or around 14% of the team under HBO and HBO Max under Chief Content Officer Casey Bloys got the ax Monday, based on internal documents seen by outlets like Insider. The cuts mainly fell on HBO Max’s reality show and unscripted teams, but they also impacted some workers in casting and acquisitions.

According to the full internal memo offered by Deadline, Bloys blamed a rapidly changing environment and changes to the company’s overall business model, meaning that they need to disband or restructure several teams. Teams that are seeing big cuts include the non-fiction and live-action family originals alongside its international originals. It also means execs like VP of the live action team Jennifer O’Connell and Jennifer Kim, who handled the international originals, are also leaving as a result. The executive VPs of casting and content acquisition—Linda Lowy and Michael Quigley—are also reportedly being shown the door.

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Rumors of layoffs have stalked the company even before they announced their combined services. Warner Bros. Discovery did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment about whether cut staff will receive any compensation or job search aid.

The letter did say some current reality programming will continue, but they will “will make renewal decisions based on traditional measures of success.” Insider reported based on an unnamed source familiar with HBO’s decisions that some shows like Legendary, FBoy Island, and House of Ho will continue on. Meanwhile a skeleton crew of HBO Max unscripted staff will remain to make sure those shows reach the end of their life cycles.

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Some other execs are being shuffled around, but the company’s casting processes will now be handled by outside casting directors instead of in-house, according to the letter to staff.

Discovery+ already includes several big-name reality programming such as the Travel Channel, Animal Planet, and TLC, so it seems the more venerable HBO brand doesn’t have need for its own reality offerings. HBO, for its part, has focused on a variety of reality shows that appeal to different cultural demographics, such as House of Ho which focused on the multibillionaire Ho family out of Houston, Texas.

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In the company’s August Q2 earnings call, Warner Bros. Discovery head David Zaslav said they needed to be “flexible toward user preferences.” The latest earnings report showed that there were about 92.1 million subscribers among HBO, HBO Max and Discovery+. The company said it wanted to reach 130 million subscribers globally.

Warner Bros. still hasn’t announced the name of its new combined service, but they did say they were exploring an “ad-light” subscription offering to help “increase monetization.” Knowing that other companies like Disney bumped up the price of its services and bundles, including the ones with ads, it’s unlikely that combining HBO with Discovery will lead to any cost savings for customers.