The executive vp and general manager of Turner Classic Movies, Pola Changnon, has opted to exit Warner Bros. Discovery.
Changnon has led TCM since 2020, but has been with the company for more than 25 years. She announced her decision to leave the company in a memo to TCM staff Tuesday.
In another note to staff Tuesday, WBD TV networks chief content officer chief Kathleen Finch said that Michael Ouweleen, the president of Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Discovery Family and Boomerang, will assume oversight of TCM. Ouweleen previously ran TCM.
Ouweleen will segue to the new position in the summer after serving as interim head of Warners’ kids, young adults and classics division, which included oversight of Adult Swim, Cartoon Network and Boomerang. Ouweleen had held the interim post since November, when 15-year Warner Media staffer Christina Miller announced her departure. She previously oversaw all three brands as well as Turner Classic Movies.
“His vast experience with the brand and its mission will help to ensure a seamless transition,” Finch wrote. “Michael shares our passion for classic films and believes strongly in TCM’s essential role in preserving and spotlighting iconic movies for the next generation of cinephiles. He has full support across WBD, and we look forward to welcoming Michael back to the TCM team.”
The executive shake-up comes as WBD undergoes a round of cuts to its domestic networks team that is described as a continuation of the cuts last year. This round is said to be smaller in scale than the earlier one, though the departures include another notable TV executive in Amy Introcaso-Davis, who led Discovery factual content, including programming for Discovery+ and Animal Planet.
As part of the change, TCM is expected to be more fully integrated into the rest of WBD’s U.S. networks, which will promote its programming, and help bolster TCM’s presence across the WBD portfolio.
“While change is never easy and can create a sense of uncertainty, I want to assure you that we remain fully committed to this business, the TCM brand, and its purpose to protect and celebrate culture-defining movies,” Finch added. “As storytellers, that is our legacy, and we will continue bringing the history and impact of classic films to life on-air and in other ways.”
The latest round of cuts comes as the entire entertainment industry seems to be reevaluating its costs.
WBD underwent an initial round of layoffs shortly after the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger, with subsequent rounds in the fall across the company, including in its TV division and at CNN.
The company told investors last year that its total restructuring costs could top $1 billion.
Meanwhile, Disney shed 7,000 jobs amid Bob Iger’s larger corporate restructuring, and Paramount shed 25 percent of its domestic TV team under Chris McCarthy, including the elimination of MTV News.
Read Finch’s memo to staff:
Dear TCM Team,
As you know, Pola has decided to step down after more than 15 years with the network and more than 25 years with the company. Under her stewardship, TCM cemented its position as the dominant classic movie brand and a favorite among classic film aficionados. We are enormously grateful for her leadership and innovation over the years and wish her well.
Michael Ouweleen, the President of Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Discovery Family and Boomerang, who previously oversaw TCM, will again lead the network. His vast experience with the brand and its mission will help to ensure a seamless transition. Michael shares our passion for classic films and believes strongly in TCM’s essential role in preserving and spotlighting iconic movies for the next generation of cinephiles. He has full support across WBD, and we look forward to welcoming Michael back to the TCM team.
While change is never easy and can create a sense of uncertainty, I want to assure you that we remain fully committed to this business, the TCM brand, and its purpose to protect and celebrate culture-defining movies. As storytellers, that is our legacy, and we will continue bringing the history and impact of classic films to life on-air and in other ways.
Thanks for your commitment during this transitional period, and – most importantly – thanks for all that you continue to do for TCM and the U.S. Networks Group.
Read Changnon’s memo:
To the TCM team:
People always say that TCM is a happy island amongst networks-and it’s true. Our distinct mission has attracted a passionate fanbase, amongst viewers and the movie-making community, but it has also attracted a stellar team who have built this brand and inspired a singular esprit de corps.
I am writing this note to share that my time has come to leave the island, but not because I got tired of the coconuts or the perfect weather. The 16+ years I’ve spent working with the remarkable people at TCM (past and present) have been the most rewarding in my career.
From my start here as creative director and, ultimately now, as General Manager of TCM, I have always felt incredibly proud of our ambition to create a network that truly honors and cherishes film legacy. There is an integrity and care that surges through everything we do, and the results are worth highlighting.
Together, we launched the TCM Classic Film Festival in 2010, creating a best-in-class, destination film festival for classic movie lovers from around the country. We subsequently added the TCM Classic Cruise and other incredible experiences that delivered the TCM promise in real life. In the throes of the pandemic, we launched our award-winning podcast The Plot Thickens which has created a new audience for the compelling stories behind the movies.
In 2016, we were the first Turner network to launch a direct-to-consumer product and I am exceedingly proud of FilmStruck and the mark it made in its lifespan. We created a new brand and learned the streaming business from the ground up, delivering a uniquely curated, modern approach to movie presentation.
Programming like Re-Framed, 31 Days of Oscar, Follow the Thread, Summer Under the Stars, Women Make Film, Race in Hollywood, The Essentials and so much more have contributed to our unflagging quest to celebrate this 100+ year-old industry with brilliant curation and context, truly living up to our tagline, Where Then Meets Now.
None of this would have been possible without a powerhouse leadership team and I want to thank them: Charlie Tabesh, the daring and formidable architect behind the programming approach that makes TCM famous; Genevieve McGillicuddy, who has led all efforts to connect the network with its fans, most vividly through her management of the TCM Classic Film Festival; Dexter Fedor, who led a stunning rebrand situating this classic network in the contemporary world; and Anne Wilson, whose distinguished tenure leading the studio team’s production of hosted segments has given human dimension to the network’s curation.
And speaking of hosts – I am grateful for Alicia Malone, Eddie Muller, Dave Karger, Jacqueline Stewart and of course, our prime host and BMOC, Ben Mankiewicz. During my time, we grew from two hosts (including, notably, the iconic and beloved Robert Osborne) to this deep and talented bench of subject-matter experts who provide context for our programming.
25+ years at the company (my first 9 with the raucously fun Cartoon Network) means that I have seen a lot of goodbye notes. I’ve always dreaded the long ones, but now I get it. It’s hard to say goodbye. I’ll close with this – thank you all for making TCM a cultural treasure and for making my time leading you a distinct and joyous honor. I will be rooting for you from the sidelines and wishing TCM all the best in the future.
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