EXCLUSIVE: Tom Ascheim is leaving his post as President Of Warner Bros. Global Kids, Young Adults and Classic two years after he joined WarnerMedia and a month after that company’s merger with Discovery was completed. He is one of two senior programming executives on the WarnerMedia side of the company who are departing after their positions have been eliminated following the merger, along with Brett Weitz, General Manager of TNT, TBS and TruTV. Both will stay on for a brief transition period.
In his role, Ascheim, a respected veteran TV executive, oversaw Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang, the studios of Cartoon Network and Warner Bros Animation in Los Angeles, and had global responsibility for the Turner Classic Movies channel. Iconic IP, series and characters under his purview included Looney Tunes, DC’s animated Super Heroes, Rick and Morty, Craig of the Creek, the classic Hanna-Barbera library, Tom and Jerry, Scooby-Doo. He subsequently added oversight of kids and family programming for HBO Max as well as Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter franchise and Wizarding World properties.
“I was fortunate to have two unbelievably exciting years rejuvenating some of the world’s most iconic franchises and IP, and helping create a global vision for kids, young adults and classics within Warner Bros,” Ascheim said in a statement. “While it’s now time for me to move on, I hope the new Warner Bros. Discovery leadership team will continue to nurture future generations of fans and the incredible teams who are so committed to these brands.”
Following the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger, Discovery’s Kathleen Finch expanded her portfolio, taking control of the WarnerMedia’s ad-supported linear networks, including TNets, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang.
In a memo to his staff (you can read it in full below), Ascheim addressed the post-merger restructuring that led to his exit.
“Mergers and acquisitions are never easy transitions, and our new leadership team has decided to organize our KYAC team differently, moving studios back under WBTV and the linear networks to Kathleen’s group,” he said. “While I know this new configuration will enable you all to continue doing extraordinary work, it doesn’t align with the vision I set out to achieve.”
The new Warner Bros. Discovery leadership has a target of $3B in cost savings from combining the two companies.
Former Freeform president Ascheim left the Disney network at the start of the pandemic to join WarnerMedia in early April 2020. He reported to Warner Bros CEO Ann Sarnoff (later CEO of Studios and Networks), who exited the day the Discovery merger was completed, in a meeting for the two seasoned executives who had worked together at Nickelodeon.
The content that was under Ascheim’s purview is distributed in 192 countries around the world. The new division’s networks are in 500 million homes and delivered through more than 65 channels in 31 languages.
Ascheim joined Freeform when it was still ABC Family in December 2013 and oversaw its rebrand into Freeform. Original series on Freeform include hit comedy Grown-ish; dramas The Bold Type, Siren, Good Trouble, Party of Five; the newest addition, Motherland: Fort Salem; and the upcoming Last Summer produced by Jessica Biel.
A well-liked executive, Ascheim has spent much of his career catering to younger audiences. He joined the millennial-focused Freeform after serving as general manager of Nickelodeon Television, chief strategy officer of Sesame Workshop and EVP of Sesame Learning.
Ascheim started out as a producer’s assistant in New York and at Silver Screen Partners, which funded movies including The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, before getting an MBA. After a stint as a financial analyst, he joined Viacom in 1990 as VP of Nickelodeon Business Development and Media Products, where he was responsible for strategic and long-range planning, market analysis and the annual budget.
After a series of internal promotions, he served as EVP and general manager of Nickelodeon Digital Television Networks and ultimately as EVP and general manager of Nickelodeon Television, where he managed the complete portfolio including Nickelodeon, Nick@Nite, Nike Jr. and Nick’s three digital networks. He led the negotiation between Nick and Sesame Workshop, which resulted in the creation of Noggin, on which he worked closely with Sarnoff, and overlooks The N, a channel dedicated to serving millennials.
In 2007, Ascheim left Viacom to join Newsweek as CEO. In his four-year stint there, he overlooks all global operations and magazines and the sale of the company to The Daily Beast.
“I was fortunate to have two unbelievably exciting years rejuvenating some of the world’s most iconic franchises and IPs, and helping create a global vision for kids, young adults and classics within Warner Bros. While it’s now time for me to move on, I hope the new Warner Bros. Discovery leadership team will continue to nurture future generations of fans and the incredible teams who are so committed to these brands.”
Here is Ascheim’s internal memo:
We’ll be making an announcement momentarily that I’ve decided to leave the company, but I wanted to share this news with all of you first. Mergers and acquisitions are never easy transitions, and our new leadership team has decided to organize our KYAC team differently, moving studios back under WBTV and the linear networks to Kathleen’s group. While I know this new configuration will enable you all to continue doing extraordinary work, it doesn’t align with the vision I set out to achieve.
Goodbyes are tough, so I’ll keep this short. It’s been an absolute privilege working with each and every one of you over the past two years. It wasn’t always easy, but you persevered when the winds were against us and continued to create treasure troves of content and affinity for our brands that I know will continue to surprise and delight generations to come.
I leave you all with nothing but admiration and pride and will be heckling you from afar with love.