In a surprise pick after a three-month search, WarnerMedia has chosen its head of Warner Bros and named Ann Sarnoff chair and CEO, appointing the first woman to run the studio in its 96-year history.
Sarnoff currently serves as president of BBC Studios Americas. She will be based in Los Angeles and officially joins the company later this summer, when her overarching mandate will be to integrate the studio with parent AT&T and build a more consumer-facing business.
Until now Warner Bros has been led by an interim team comprising Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. Television Group president and chief content officer Peter Roth, and Warner Bros executive vice-president and CFO Kim Williams. The team took the reins after Kevin Tsujihara departed in March.
Sarnoff currently serves as president of BBC Studios Americas (formerly BBC Worldwide Americas), and has worked in business and media for more than three decades at companies including Viacom, the NBA and Dow Jones. She will oversee worldwide operations at Warner Bros. including production, marketing and distribution of film, television, and interactive entertainment.
“I am delighted Ann is joining the WarnerMedia team and excited to work side by side with such a talented and accomplished individual,” said WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey. “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.
“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.”
“It is a privilege to join a studio with such a storied history,” said Sarnoff. “Warner Bros. has been an industry leader for decades and is known for creating many of the most iconic film, television and gaming properties. 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.”
At BBC Studios Americas, Sarnoff ran the company’s business division in the US, Canada and Latin America. She oversaw L.A. Productions, linear and digital programme sales and co-productions, home entertainment, and licensing. She also led efforts to increase awareness of BBC Studios global brands like Doctor Who, Top Gear, and BBC Earth. She is also board chair of the direct-to-consumer service BritBox.
“Ann’s contribution to BBC Studios has been immense,” said Tim Davie, BBC Studios CEO. “She has grown our core business as well as driving significant innovation, including the successful creation of BritBox, the growth of BBC America alongside our partner AMCN, the launch of new channels like BBC Earth in Canada, and major new content and production deals. We will miss her generosity and her spirit of collaboration, and we wish her great success at Warner Bros.”
“I want to thank Toby, Peter and Kim for stepping up during this transition and making sure Warner Bros. didn’t miss a beat,” added Stankey. “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.”
Prior to joining BBC Worldwide, Sarnoff was president of Dow Jones Ventures and senior vice-president of strategy. She also served as COO for the Women’s National Basketball Association, and served in a number of roles at Viacom from 1993-2003, among them Nickelodeon executive vice-president for consumer products and business development, and COO for VH1 and CMT.