WarnerMedia has hired Ann Sarnoff (pictured) as Warner Bros.’ new CEO, following Kevin Tsujihara departure in March. Sarnoff is the first female CEO for the media company in its nearly 100-year history.
In her new role, Sarnoff will oversee worldwide operations of the company, including the production, marketing and distribution of film, TV and interactive entertainment. Based in LA, she will officially join the company later this summer. Her remit will also include all of WarnerMedia’s kids and YA brands, including Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang, Otter Media, Turner Classic Movies, as well as all licensed CP. All of those units were combined following the AT&T acquisition of Time Warner last June, originally under Tsujihara.
Sarnoff previously served as the president of BBC Studios Americas (formerly BBC Worldwide Americas), where she worked to drive growth and profit in the US, Canada and LatAm. She also oversaw the company’s linear and digital program sales and co-productions, home entertainment and licensing through its studio LA Productions. Before being appointed to the role of president, she served as the COO of BBC Worldwide North America, handling most major revenue streams for the company.
Prior to joining BBC Worldwide, she was the president at Dow Jones Ventures and the COO of the Women’s National Basketball Association. Sarnoff is also no stranger to the kids space: she was the EVP of Nickelodeon’s consumer products and business development from 1993 to 2003. In that role, she led the team that launched the kids channel Noggin and built franchises around the Rugrats and Blue’s Clues IP. She helped grow the company’s CP division into a multi-billion dollar revenue business, according to WarnerMedia.
“She’s a smart choice because she knows how to make the train run on time and understands how to put processes in place,” says Ava Seave, a principal consultant at the New York-based media and entertainment firm Quantum Media. “She has adjusted to managing lots of different media and she isn’t running around switching jobs all the time. She makes money for the stockholders and the owners. Her management style is famously excellent and people in the industry know her for that.”
Tsujihara stepped down as WB’s CEO in March following an investigation into a relationship he had with actress Charlotte Kirk, and the allegations that he abused his power by using his position to help her find work.
“When it comes to [Tsujihara] and whatever issues he had, and their management styles, Ann Sarnoff is a different animal all together,” says Seave. “Studios are often not profitable, it’s a hit-driven business frequently. Sarnoff ran a studio and she understands how to do these things in terms of process, making people comfortable, handling talent and getting the best out of it.”