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Warner Bros Names BBC Studios Americas Chief Ann Sarnoff as CEO

Sarnoff becomes the first woman to head Warner Bros.

WarnerMedia announced on Monday that Ann Sarnoff will take over as the new CEO of Warner Bros. film studio, where she will be the first woman to lead the studio in its nearly 100-year history.

“I am delighted Ann is joining the WarnerMedia team and excited to work side by side with such a talented and accomplished individual. She brings a consistent and proven track record of innovation, creativity and business results to lead an incredibly successful studio to its next chapter of growth,” WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said in a statement. “Ann has shown the ability to innovate and grow revenues and has embraced the evolution taking place in our industry. I am confident she will be a great cultural fit for WarnerMedia and that our employees will embrace her leadership, enthusiasm and passion for our business.”

Sarnoff, currently president of BBC Studios Americas, takes over for Kevin Tsujihara who stepped down from his post in March. She brings more than 30 years of experience to overseeing worldwide operations at Warner Bros., including the production, marketing and distribution of film, TV and interactive entertainment.

While at BBC Americas, Sarnoff oversaw L.A. Productions, linear and digital program sales and co-productions, home entertainment, and licensing. She also led efforts to amplify BBC Studios’ global brands “Doctor Who,” “Top Gear,” and the natural history brand “BBC Earth.” She also serves as chairman of the board for BritBox, where she has guided the development and growth of the direct-to-consumer service which offers U.S. and Canadian customers the largest collection of British television programming.

That experience is paramount as WarnerMedia prepares to launch its own direct-to-consumer streaming service.

“It is a privilege to join a studio with such a storied history. Warner Bros. has been an industry leader for decades and is known for creating many of the most iconic film, television and gaming properties,” Sarnoff said in a statement. “I accept this position excited by the opportunity to work with the most accomplished executives and teams in media, and confident about carrying this incredible heritage forward with them.”

Tsujihara stepped down as Warner Bros. CEO earlier this year following the fallout from a Hollywood Reporter article which detailed a sexual relationship with actress Charlotte Kirk. An investigation into that relationship that followed.

Warner Bros. had appointed an interim management team immediately following Tsujihara’s exit, consisting of Warner Bros. Pictures Group Chairman Toby Emmerich, TV Group president and Chief Content Officer Peter Roth, and Kim Williams, Warner Bros.’s executive vice president and CFO.

“I want to thank Toby, Peter and Kim for stepping up during this transition and making sure Warner Bros. didn’t miss a beat,” Stankey said. “Their commitment to delivering operationally and creatively is evident in our results over the last several months. It’s clear that Ann becomes part of a team that is second-to-none.”

Alongside her role at BBC Studios Americas, Sarnoff also served as head of BBC Worldwide’s Global Production Network from 2016-2018 and was charged with developing the strategy for and optimizing the company’s global production operations.

Prior to joining BBC Worldwide, Sarnoff was president of Dow Jones Ventures and senior vice president of strategy, where she was responsible for leveraging the assets of Dow Jones to create new businesses focusing on digital and B-to-C markets, and for overseeing corporate strategy and business development.

Sarnoff has also served as COO for the Women’s National Basketball Association, where she was recruited by and sat on the executive team of NBA Commissioner David Stern. In addition to running the league’s business operations and overseeing player personnel and programs, Sarnoff redefined the WNBA brand, secured new sponsorships, and instituted innovative marketing campaigns for the league.

Sarnoff has also worked with some of the best-known brands in television while at Viacom from 1993-2003. As Nickelodeon’s executive vice president for consumer products and business development, she led the team that launched the channel Noggin. She then became COO for VH1 and CMT where, in addition to strategic planning and business operations, she oversaw the company’s websites, radio, audio and video products, and launched the channel VH1 Classic.

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