Turner CEO John Martin, who’s held purview over networks like CNN, TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network since 2014, will be leaving the company now that the AT&T merger is complete.
In a company memo, new AT&T Entertainment CEO John Stankey said Martin’s departure will allow him to “work more closely with more Turner leaders and accelerate my personal learning of the business as we define our shared priorities across the company.”
As Deadline points out, David Levy, president of Turner; Gerhard Zeiler, president of Turner International; and Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, will all now report directly to Stankey. HBO CEO Richard Plepler and Warner Bros. head Kevin Tsujihara will also report to Stankey.
In the run-up to and during the U.S. Justice Department’s attempt to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger in court, Martin was a vocal proponent of the deal. During Recode’s Code Media conference in February, Martin called the government “clueless” for trying to block the vertical merger.
“As a person who’s actually going through the process and has been in depositions, the theory of the case just makes absolutely no sense. … In the history of the country, what vertical merger has tilted the landscape of the competitive environment? Let me give you the answer: Zero,” Martin said.
Martin also testified during the trial and said that AT&T and Turner would have no reason to withhold programming from competing distributors.
Turner has also voiced some strong criticisms of DirecTV Now, AT&T’s virtual MVPD service. At the same Recode conference, Martin called it a “money-losing business.”
Along with announcing Martin’s departure, Stankey also revealed in the memo that that Time Warner name is going away and being replaced with WarnerMedia but assured that key brand names like HBO, CNN, Warner Bros. and TNT are staying the same.
“So why change the Time Warner name? The simple answer is that it creates confusion amongst our stakeholders who never learned to distinguish between Time Warner, the media company, and Time Warner, the former cable company. Our consumer research suggests this confusion isn’t going away any time soon. So, it is easier and more economical to change the name, than invest in advertising to resolve the confusion,” Stankey wrote.
Indeed, in 2016 when the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee summoned AT&T and Time Warner to testify regarding the planned merger, the lawmakers called on the CEO of Time Warner Cable by accident.