At Burbank Town Hall, New WarnerMedia Chief Says He Won't "Pick Scripts"

John Stankey - grand opening of the AT&T Forum for Technology 2018 - Getty-H 2018
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John Stankey addressed all divisons of Warner Bros. on Wednesday morning.

Newly minted WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey turned up at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank on Wednesday morning for a post-merger town hall meeting, addressing employees across all divisons of the storied studio a week after AT&T won approval to buy media giant Time Warner.

Stankey took the stage inside the posh Steven J. Ross Theater, where corporate communications chief Dee Dee Myers had emcee duties, and Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman-CEO Kevin Tsujihara sat alongside him. Stankey, a Hollywood newbie, was given high marks for being charming and straight to the point.

The town hall commenced with a sizzle reel of Warner Bros. movies and television shows, both past and present. Classic films in the reel included Casablanca and North by Northwest, while upcoming pics included Bradley Cooper's upcoming A Star Is Born and Andy Serkis' Mowgli. On the TV side, series getting a shout-out included The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon.

Myers then introduced what, in her words, would be a "no-holds-barred conversation" with Stankey. She began with her own series of questions, followed by questions from employees — as well as one from Bugs Bunny.

Kidding aside, Stankey said he believes in a management style that allows for disagreement and dailogue to achieve a better decision.

The exec also reiterated that AT&T doesn't intend to come in and micromanage the film and TV divisions. Put another way, he said he has "no interest" in telling creative executives "how to pick scripts."

The longtime AT&T exec was later asked about redundancies.

"AT&T has no duplication to what you do," said Stankey, adding that the "conversation might be different" if it were Fox or another Hollywood studio up onstage, versus AT&T.

Stankey said much the same in an interview earlier this week with The Hollywood Reporter; he said that while there might be duplication in the upper corporate reaches of both companies that results in layoffs, there is no intention to restructure operating entities in the divisions, such as Warner Bros., Turner or HBO.

When asked what employees should be doing over the course of the next year as the merger solidifies, Tsujihara responded, "We must maintain our focus on being the best" in turning out creative content. "We will have to be making changes while we're on the move," he added.

Stankey also had advice to offer after acknowledging that the merger might create some discomfort: "You have a job to do — keeping the plane flying while you're changing the engine."

There's no doubt that AT&T intends to use the merger for content that could be offered directly to consumers as the traditional media world moves away from an ad-supported business.

Stankey and AT&T chief Randall Stephenson also have gone out of their way to say they don't intend to make any changes in leadership (other than departing Turner CEO John Martin), and have each voiced support for Tsujihara.

Stankey's roadshow began Tuesday in New York City during a town hall meeting with HBO. A high-profile roster of the pay cabler's talent, including Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke, participated in a humurous video posing questions to Stankey about AT&T. 

At Warner Bros., Stankey drew a rousing laugh when he said AT&T was already coming through on its promise to improve cellphone service on the lot, noting that he was delighted to see that he had four bars on his phone. 

Tatiana Siegel contributed to this report.