Last week, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) boasted in its third-quarter earnings report the success of Max, the newly launched streaming service representing the new face of the company born out of a merger between Discovery Inc. and AT&T’s spinoff of WarnerMedia in April 2021.
WBD has been in operation for less than two years, and Max, launched in May, has been a major focus for many of the company’s top executives during this time. The effort seems to have paid off. While its competitors, including The Walt Disney Company, struggle to make money from streaming, WBD said its streaming unit is on track to turn a profit this year. But the leadership team still faces challenges in turning around the merged conglomerate’s other businesses, including film and television studios and cable networks.
WBD’s corporate leadership team comprises former Discovery executives, including CEO David Zaslav and his chief financial and revenue officers. Multiple executive team members are also Hulu cofounders who previously worked at NBCUniversal when it acquired a large stake in the streamer. Disney now owns Hulu.
Here are seven critical corporate executives who help CEO Zaslav run WBD’s global business spanning film, sports, streaming and video gaming:
David Zaslav, CEO and president
David Zaslav came on as CEO of WBD in 2022 upon the completion of the merger between Discovery and WarnerMedia. Before that, he was the CEO of Discovery for 16 years. Zaslav was chosen by AT&T CEO John Stankey and Discovery Chairman John Malone to lead the combined company. The position could have gone to WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who was reportedly blindsided by the decision. He had only joined WarnerMedia the year before the merger.
In his short time at the helm of WBD, Zaslav has had to answer for the company’s mounting debt, plummeting stock price and widening losses. As one of the top executives in the media industry, Zaslav was also a main face representing large film and TV studios during the Hollywood writers and actors labor strikes, which WBD estimates cost the company as much as $500 million.
Gunnar Wiedenfels, chief financial officer
Gunnar Wiedenfels worked alongside Zaslav at Discovery for four years before joining WBD. He’s credited as one of the main architects of Discovery’s acquisition of WarnerMedia who negotiated the deal that cost Discovery $43 billion.
As Zaslav’s right-hand man at WBD, Wiedenfels is responsible for all of the company’s financial operations, including executing a massive cost-cutting campaign in a bid to save WBD’s bleeding bottom line.
Bruce Campbell, chief revenue and strategy officer
Bruce Campbell is a cofounder of Hulu and also a Discovery veteran. He worked at Discovery from 2007 to 2021, rising to chief development, distribution and legal officer. At WBD, Campbell’s responsibilities include overseeing ad sales in the U.S., content licensing and global streaming platform agreements.
Campbell will soon oversee the changes in one of his departments, WBD’s global consumer products and franchises division, as two executives who report to him are stepping down. Pam Lifford, the president of the division, is leaving. So is Julian Moon, who leads WBD’s consumer products overseas. Campbell has announced a restructure for the division that includes recruiting a global head of franchises.
Avi Saxena, chief technology officer
Avi Saxena oversees the technology behind all of WBD’s products, from direct-to-consumer to sports offerings like Bleacher Report. He played a key role in combining HBO Max and Discovery+ into one streaming platform, Max.
Prior to the merger, Saxena was the chief technology officer of Discovery’s direct-to-consumer division, which included its streaming service Discovery+. It was a newly created position for the company made in 2019 for Saxena’s arrival from Amazon, where he was vice president of technology at Amazon’s e-commerce unit.
JB Perrette, CEO of global streaming and games
JB Perrette runs WBD’s streaming services and its gaming brands. His background in streaming is profound, as he is also a cofounder of Hulu. Before this current role, Perrette was the CEO of Discovery’s streaming and international business. Prior to Discovery, Perrette worked at NBCUniversal, leading its digital and affiliate distribution for 11 years.
Perrette is tasked to execute Zaslav’s vision of building a streaming service that could rival Netflix and Disney+. He led HBO Max’s controversial rebranding to Max. At WBD’s announcement of Max in April, Perrette explained that dropping the “HBO” branding would help the streaming service introduce more content and appeal to a wider audience.
Patrizio Spagnoletto, global chief marketing officer, direct-to-consumer (streaming)
Patrizio Spagnoletto also joined WBD from Discovery, although he worked there only briefly before the merger. Spagnoletto was the global chief marketing officer at Discovery, reporting to Perette. Before that, Spagnoletto held senior marketing roles at Hulu for four years.
At WBD, Spagnoletto is in charge of the marketing strategies for all of the company’s streaming services, including Max in the U.S. and Discovery+ and HBO Max in Europe and Latin America.
Gerhard Zeiler, president of international
Gerhard Zeiler oversees the international side of WBD’s brands, specifically former WarnerMedia assets, including TV stations and HBO Max, which is still available outside of the U.S.
Zeiler is one of the few executives coming from the WarnerMedia side of the merger. He was the president of the Turner Broadcasting System International Group, a subsidiary of WarnerMedia, from 2012 to 2019. In 2020, he was promoted to president of WarnerMedia’s international business.