EXCLUSIVE: Tom Ascheim is stepping down 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 top programming executives from the WarnerMedia side of the company to leave after their positions were eliminated following the merger, along with Brett Weitz, General Manager of TNT, TBS and TruTV. Both will remain for a short transition period.
In his role, Ascheim, a respected veteran television executive, oversaw Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang, the Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Animation studios in Los Angeles, and had global responsibility for the Turner Classic Movies channel. Iconic IPs, series and characters under his purview included Looney Tunes, DC’s animated superheroes, Rick and Morty, Craig of the Creek, Hanna-Barbera’s classic library, Tom and Jerry, Scooby-Doo. Later, he added oversight of children’s and family programming for HBO Max and Warner Bros. Harry Potter Wizarding World franchises and properties.
“I was fortunate to have an incredibly exciting two years rejuvenating some of the world’s most iconic franchises and IPs, and helping to create a global vision for kids, young adults and classics within Warner Bros.,” Ascheim said in a statement. “While now is the time to move on, I hope that the new Warner Bros. Discovery leadership team will continue to nurture future generations of fans and the amazing teams that are so committed to these brands.”
Following the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger, Discovery’s Kathleen Finch expanded her portfolio and took control of 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 departure.
“Mergers and acquisitions are never easy transitions, and our new leadership team has decided to organize our KYAC team differently, moving the studios back under WBTV and the linear networks to Kathleen’s group,” he said. “While I know this new setup will allow everyone to continue to do an extraordinary job, it does not align with the vision I set out to achieve.”
The new Warner Bros. Discovery leadership is targeting $3 billion in cost savings by 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 stepped out the day the Discovery merger was completed, at a meeting of the two seasoned executives who had worked together at Nickelodeon.
The content that was under the control of Ascheim 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 while it was still ABC Family in December 2013 and oversaw its rebranding to Freeform. Freeform Original Series Includes a Hit Comedy Grown up; dramas The Bold Type, Siren, Good Trouble, Party of Five; the most recent addition, Homeland: Fort Salem; and the next Last summer produced by Jessica Biel.
A much-loved executive, Ascheim has spent much of his career catering to younger audiences. He joined millennial-focused Freeform after serving as general manager of Nickelodeon Television, chief strategy officer of Sesame Workshop and executive vice president of Sesame Learning.
Ascheim started out as a production assistant in New York and at Silver Screen Partners, which financed films including The little Mermaid Y Beauty and the Beast, before getting an MBA. After a stint as a financial analyst, he joined Viacom in 1990 as Nickelodeon’s vice president of business development and media products, where he was responsible for long-range and strategic planning, market analysis and annual budgeting.
After a series of internal promotions, he served as Executive Vice President and General Manager of Nickelodeon Digital Television Networks and ultimately as Executive Vice President and General Manager of Nickelodeon Television, where he managed the entire portfolio, including Nickelodeon, Nick @ Nite, Nike Jr. and Nick’s three digital networks. He led the deal between Nick and Sesame Workshop, which resulted in the creation of Noggin, on which he worked closely with Sarnoff, and oversaw The N, a channel dedicated to catering to millennials.
In 2007, Ascheim left Viacom to join news week as CEO In his four-year stint there, he oversaw all global operations and magazines and the sale of the company to The Daily Beast.
“I was blessed to have had an incredibly exciting two years rejuvenating some of the world’s most iconic franchises and IPs, and helping to create a global vision for kids, young adults and classics within Warner Bros. While now is the time to move on. I look forward to the new Warner Bros. Discovery leadership team continuing to nurture future generations of fans and the amazing teams that are so committed to these brands.”
Here is Asheim’s internal note:
In a moment we will make an announcement that I have decided to leave the company, but first I wanted to share this news with all of you. Mergers and acquisitions are never easy transitions, and our new leadership team has decided to organize our KYAC team differently, moving the studios back under WBTV and linear networks to Kathleen’s group. While I know this new setup will allow everyone to continue to do extraordinary work, it does not align with the vision I set out to achieve.
Goodbyes are hard, so I’ll be brief. It has been an absolute privilege working with each and every one of you over the past two years. It wasn’t always easy, but they persevered when the winds were against and continued to create treasure troves of content and affinity with 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 I will be interrupting you from afar with love.