A top Warner Bros. Discovery ad sales exec has exited, and insiders say rumors are flying of layoffs and changes as early as next week

In this photo, illustration the logo of Warner Bros is displayed on computer screen and the logo of Discovery is displayed on phone screen in front of it in Ankara, Turkey on April 12, 2022. Media giants, WarnerMedia and Discovery, run the combined company, Warner Bros. Discovery

  • One of Warner Bros. Discovery’s senior ad salespeople, EVP Jim Keller, has left the company.
  • Insiders are speculating more layoffs and organizational changes are on the way.
  • The media giant is wrapping its ad sales upfront period, where sales have been soft across the industry.

Insiders speculate that more layoffs and changes are on the way at Warner Bros. Discovery.

Jim Keller, the most recent departure, was one of the senior executives chosen to lead WBD’s new ad sales team, which emerged from Discovery’s 2022 acquisition of Warner Bros.

Keller, who oversaw sales for HBO Max, Discovery+, and other streaming and digital platforms, joined Discovery in 2020 from Hulu, where he helped build the company’s advertising business under Peter Naylor (now at Netflix). Keller was tasked at WBD with bringing a digital and data-driven mindset to what had previously been a linear TV-driven company, as well as selling advertisers on the company’s big new streaming bet, Max. He is involved in the digital advertising industry, serving on the boards of advanced TV advertising company OpenAP and trade group the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Rumors are also circulating among WBD insiders that more layoffs are on the way as soon as next week, and that the company will abandon its strategy of selling networks and platforms in bundles, including a so-called “male bundle.” The approach was intended to target audiences by grouping similar content together, but it felt antiquated to some insiders and advertisers, who had to speak with multiple salespeople in order to buy across WBD’s portfolio. Insiders predict that WBD will adopt a strategy in which salespeople can sell across the portfolio, as other large media companies do.

WBD declined to comment.

Jim Keller.

Jim Keller.

WBD and its media conglomerate peers are having a difficult year as advertisers cut back on spending and linear TV ratings continue to fall. According to MediaRadar data, CNN has seen a decline in ad revenue and advertiser clients among WBD properties. Under former CEO Chris Licht, the cable network struggled, and news is a difficult sell for advertisers in general.

It is WBD’s second difficult year; the company was formed when Discovery acquired WarnerMedia from AT&T in a deal that closed just before the 2022 upfronts.Steinlauf told Insider in May that the fledgling company was unprepared for the biggest sales period of the year in 2022, leaving money on the table. Advertisers also chastised WBD last year for being overly aggressive in seeking rate increases.

Steinlauf’s message for this year’s upfronts was all about giving advertisers flexibility in how they buy TV ads.

Following the 2022 merger, WBD already reduced its ad sales staff by hundreds as CEO David Zaslav sought to cut costs to justify the union, and executives have referred to this year as a rebuilding year. Nonetheless, layoffs have continued in 2023, including a round at the sports division.

Keller’s departure is the third major WBD ad sales departure this year, following Scott Kohn, EVP of national ad sales, and John Dailey, SVP of ad sales. The company will report quarterly earnings on August 3.

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