Thursday, April 25, 2024

Concern grows over lack of diversity at Warner Bros. Discovery

According to an exclusive from The Daily Beast, two former HBO Max executives who wished to remain anonymous stated that the streaming service now has very few people of color left to oversee its diverse slate of content, and is taking the axe to said content in favor of targeting “middle America.”

The way we receive our entertainment has undergone drastic changes in the last few years shifting from cable to streaming as the primary way in which we consume content. With that change came an onslaught of new streaming services, all trying to out-compete each other with fresh new content and exclusive access to classic titles. The result has been an ever-increasing number of monthly paid subscriptions for consumers with less than stellar content from most of these streaming networks. Many of us thought we had finally found salvation in HBOMax with its incredible curation of queer content, blockbuster shows, children’s programming and impressive back catalogue of movies, but things appear to have gone awry.

The recent merger of WarnerMedia (which owns HBOMax) with Discovery (owner of Discovery+) has caused a drastic change to the internal structure of the company in addition to the programming HBOMax is offering its customers as the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery corporation moves towards combining the two streaming services.

Warner Bros. Discovery recently threw the entertainment streaming industry into chaos when it laid off over 70 people this month in a corporate shuffle aimed at maximizing profits. Departments affected by these layoffs included the entire teams behind unscripted content, international content, and kids and family content. The company also raised ire when it announced that it would be shelving the already completely made Batgirl film without showing it to audiences as a tax break.

HBO Max has become beloved as a streaming service, particularly for marginalized folks. The platform is home to a variety of LGBTQ+ content, from the animated Harley Quinn show, to Legendary – the high production value Ballroom competition show featuring queer and trans people of color showing off their Voguing skills. The first two seasons of Little Ellen, the favorably reviewed animated series centering around a young Ellen DeGeneres, has already been pulled from the service. And much like Batgirl, the 20 already completed episodes comprising seasons 3 and 4 will never be released.

Because of all of these drastic changes, it’s unclear if shows like these, that celebrate the lives and experiences of marginalized people, will ever receive greenlights going forward. The reported layoff of 13 people of color were the people in charge of developing programs like The Gordita Chronicles and Menudo: Forever Young. Its a huge concern to industry insiders and viewers alike.

“HBO is the most homogenous part of this umbrella,” one former executive told The Daily Beast. “Instead of trying to figure out how to integrate some of the [Max] executives into HBO, they just made this sweeping cut of three divisions: kids, family, and international. A lot of Black and brown people lost their jobs.”

“I don’t think anyone knows just how white the staff is,” another former executive said.

To this point, the former employees the Daily Beast spoke to were only able to think of one person of color still in the upper ranks of HBO Max, executive vice president of drama Joey Chavez. One noted that there may be a Black woman working in HBO proper’s higher echelons, but they weren’t even completely sure of that, as HBO is a separate entity from HBO Max.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, HBO denied these allegations from its former employees, citing shows like A Black Lady Sketch Show, Euphoria, and Rap Sh!t.

“HBO and HBO Max have always shown a commitment to diverse programming and storytellers, and always will,” the company told The Daily Beast.

It’s clear that the former employees in question do not feel confident in this sentiment. Several told The Daily Beast that they felt Warner Bros. Discovery simply didn’t care about them or the holes in the streaming service they’d be leaving behind.

“There was just a massive, ‘We don’t need you. You’re not offering the things we’re focused on,'” one executive said, noting that it seems Discovery CEO David Zaslav would rather do “general” content like Fixer Upper: Welcome Home hosted by Chip and Joanna Gaines.

“If David Zaslav had his wish, he would just program Chip and Joanna all day long,” the executive told The Daily Beast.

Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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