Warner Bros TV Chairman Peter Roth to step down in early 2021

By Meg James, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Warner Bros. Television Chairman Peter Roth, one of Hollywood's most successful executives, will step down early next year.

For more than two decades, Roth shepherded such hits as "The West Wing," "The Big Bang Theory," "Two and a Half Men," "Gilmore Girls," "One Tree Hill" and "Gossip Girl" onto the TV screen - cultural touchstones that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in profits for Warner Bros. The savvy executive was instrumental in extending the broadcast life of "Friends," which was long the studio's biggest cash cow. And he helped salvage "Two and a Half Men" after the chaotic departure of Charlie Sheen in 2011.

The bounty produced by Roth's TV pipeline helped the Warner Bros. studio ride out the ups and downs of the volatile movie side of the business.

"Working at Warner Bros. has been the greatest, most meaningful, most rewarding experience of my career," Roth said in a statement. "For the past 22 years, I have had the privilege to be associated with some of the most inspiring creative talent, the most impactful television series and the most dedicated and passionate people I have ever known."

Roth, 69, has been a magnet for talent, writers and producers who appreciated his unflappable manner and easygoing style. He signed exclusive overall deals with such heavyweight producers as Chuck Lorre, Greg Berlanti, J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath's Bad Robot Productions, Ava DuVernay, John Wells, Damon Lindelof, Bryan Cranston, Mindy Kaling and Robert Zemeckis.

His steady leadership and the number of juggernauts produced by Hollywood's most prolific TV studio became the envy of other media companies. A former Fox executive, Roth joined the company in March 1999 as the president of Warner Bros. Television. During his more than two decades leading the studio, 32 scripted primetime series that he helped develop reached the coveted 100-episode milestone.

His upcoming departure, announced Friday, will further a wholesale changing of the guard at the venerable Burbank studio. Since the Warner Bros. studio, premium channel HBO and the Turner TV channels were acquired by AT&T in 2018, there has been an exodus of top executive talent.


Warner Bros. said Roth's departure has been in the works for several months.

"Peter and I have been meeting for some time about this, and while there's never a great moment to say goodbye, he felt that this was the right time to transition in a new leader for the group," said Ann Sarnoff, chairman and chief executive of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, in a statement. "He's delivered hundreds of shows, thousands of episodes and millions of viewers, with one singular vision - to work with the best people and to make the best television series. ... We're thankful for his contributions to our company and wish him the very best."

Sarnoff stopped short of naming a replacement, although the studio has been said to be looking for a younger generation of leadership.

There is expected to be great interest in succeeding Roth, particularly since his longtime deputy and presumed heir to the role, Susan Rovner, unexpectedly left the company in September to run NBCUniversal's television programming group. Some observers have speculated that Channing Dungey, an executive who recently stepped down at Netflix and previously was head of ABC Entertainment, might be in line for the job. Other possible candidates include Dawn Olmstead, head of Universal Cable Productions, and Amy Israel, an executive vice president at Showtime Networks.

"It has long been my dream to be able to say farewell at the right time in the right way and for the right reason," Roth said. "I'm grateful to Ann Sarnoff for giving me that opportunity and to my Warner Bros. colleagues, past and present, for giving me what has been the gift of a lifetime. I look forward to the next chapter of my career and remaining connected to those people who have meant so much to me."

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