Turner Classic Movies executive VP and GM Pola Changnon has chosen to leave Warner Bros. to exit Discovery.
Changnon has been leading TCM as GM 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 employees on Tuesday.
In another message to staff Tuesday, Kathleen Finch, chief content officer of WBD TV networks, said Michael Ouweleen, the president of Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Discovery Family and Boomerang, will take over oversight of TCM. Ouweleen previously ran TCM.
Ouweleen will transition to the new role in the summer after serving as interim head of Warners’ Kids, Young Adults and Classics division, where he oversaw Adult Swim, Cartoon Network and Boomerang, among others. Ouweleen has held the interim position since November, when 15-year-old Warner Media executive Christina Miller announced her departure. She previously oversaw all three brands, as well as Turner Classic Movies.
“His vast experience with the brand and mission will help ensure a seamless transition,” Finch wrote. “Michael shares our passion for classic films and strongly believes in the vital role of TCM in preserving and bringing iconic films to the attention of the next generation of cinephiles. He has full support within WBD and we look forward to welcoming Michael back to the TCM team.”
The executive shakeup comes as WBD undergoes a series of cuts in its domestic network team, which are described as a continuation of last year’s cuts.
As part of the change, TCM is expected to be more fully integrated with the rest of WBD’s US networks, which will promote its programming and help strengthen its presence in 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 company, the TCM brand, and its purpose of protecting and celebrating culture-defining films,” added Finch please. “As storytellers, that is our legacy, and we will continue to bring to life the history and impact of classic films on the air and in other ways.”
The latest round of cuts comes as the entire entertainment industry appears to be re-evaluating its costs.
WBD underwent a first round of layoffs shortly after the merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery, with subsequent rounds in the fall company-wide, including in the TV division and at CNN.
The company told investors last year that total restructuring costs could exceed $1 billion.
Meanwhile, Disney cut 7,000 jobs amid Bob Iger’s larger corporate restructuring; and at Paramount, the company lost 25% 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 retire after more than 15 years with the network and more than 25 years with the company. Under her leadership, TCM solidified its position as the dominant classic movie brand and a favorite among classic movie fans. We are extremely grateful to her 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 once again lead the network. His extensive experience with the brand and its mission will help ensure a seamless transition. Michael shares our passion for classic films and strongly believes in the vital role of TCM in preserving and bringing iconic films to the attention of the next generation of cinephiles. He has full support within 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 company, the TCM brand, and its purpose of protecting and celebrating culture-defining films. As storytellers, that is our legacy and we will continue to bring to life the history and impact of classic films on the air and in other ways.
Thank you for your efforts during this transitional period, and most importantly, thank you for all you continue to do for TCM and the US Networks Group.
Read Changnon’s memo:
To the TCM team:
People always say that TCM is a happy island between networks – and it’s true. Our distinct mission has attracted a passionate fan base, among viewers and the film community, but it has also attracted a fantastic team that has built this brand and inspired a unique esprit de corps.
I’m writing this note to share that it’s my time to leave the island, but not because I’m tired of coconuts or the perfect weather. The 16+ years I spent working with the remarkable people at TCM (past and present) have been the most rewarding of my career.
From my start here as Creative Director and finally now as General Manager of TCM, I’ve always been incredibly proud of our ambition to create a network that truly honors and cherishes film history. Everything we do exudes integrity and care, and the results are worth mentioning.
Together, we launched the TCM Classic Film Festival in 2010, creating a best-in-class destination film festival for classic film enthusiasts across the country. Then we added the TCM Classic Cruise and other incredible experiences that delivered on 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 films.
In 2016, we were the first Turner Network to launch a direct-to-consumer product, and I’m extremely proud of FilmStruck and the brand it has created over its lifetime. We created a new brand and learned the streaming business from the ground up, allowing us to offer a uniquely curated, modern approach to movie presentation.
Programs such as Re-Framed, 31 Days of Oscar, Follow the Thread, Summer Under the Stars, Women Make Film, Race in Hollywood, The Essentials and many more have contributed to our relentless quest to celebrate this 100+ year old industry with brilliant curation and context, that really lives up to our tagline, Where Then Meets Now.
None of this would have been possible without a strong leadership team and I want to thank them: Charlie Tabesh, the bold and formidable architect behind the programming approach that made 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 spearheaded a stunning rebrand to situate this classic network in the contemporary world; and Anne Wilson, whose distinguished tenure as leader of the studio team’s hosted segment production has brought a human dimension to the network’s makeup.
And speaking of hosts, I’m thankful for Alicia Malone, Eddie Muller, Dave Karger, Jacqueline Stewart, and of course our main host and BMOC, Ben Mankiewicz. During my time, we’ve grown from two hosts (most notably including the iconic and beloved Robert Osborne) to this profound and talented gang of subject matter experts who provide context for our programming.
More than 25 years with the company (my first 9 years with the wildly fun Cartoon Network) means I’ve seen a lot of goodbye notes. I always feared the tall one, but now I get it. It’s hard to say hello. I close with this – thank you all for making TCM a cultural treasure and for taking my time to lead you to a clear and joyful honor. I will keep my fingers crossed for you from the sidelines and wish TCM all the best in the future.