Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

HBO COO Eric Kessler — Who Spearheaded Its Digital Strategy — Is Departing

According to a memo from HBO CEO Richard Plepler, COO Eric Kessler will be departing the premium cable channel.

“After careful consideration we have decided that the COO position does not best serve the most effective management process at HBO,” wrote Plepler, without giving more info.

It’s not clear from the memo if Kessler has another job lined up — Hulu calling?

Among other things, Kessler is the guy behind the famous “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO.” marketing motto. He had been at HBO for 27 years.

At the Time Warner-owned HBO — whose hits include “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire” — Kessler was important to mapping out its digital strategy amid the changes to the cable-TV cash-cow business, while also dealing with pretty impressive assaults from new rivals like Netflix and Amazon.

Here’s the unusually nice departure memo from Plepler, about an unusually nice media exec (while Internet types are not a walk in the park, either, an unusually nice media exec is unusual):

It is with mixed emotions that I announce that Eric Kessler will be leaving HBO. After careful consideration we have decided that the COO position does not best serve the most effective management process at HBO.

It is important to say that this in no way reflects on the extraordinary talents that Eric has so ably demonstrated in his 27 years at HBO. His accomplishments have helped shape the company throughout its modern history. Eric has been an uncommonly valued colleague and friend to all of us at HBO. While his many contributions could not adequately be reflected here, they are indeed numerous and lasting — in fact, we are currently completing one of our strongest years ever. Eric launched several iconic marketing and advertising campaigns — most notably the award winning “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO” — and his influence is visible on screen through HBO’s lauded on-air promotional efforts. Since 2007, Eric has overseen the distribution of the HBO and Cinemax networks in both domestic and international markets. In addition to the pay television channels, he oversaw the worldwide sale of HBO’s programming through licensing, DVD and digital distribution.

Eric was an early champion of our digital future — he was central in establishing our relationship with iTunes (Apple), driving the exploration of mobile experiences, and ultimately leading the development and worldwide launch of HBO GO. HBO GO is an essential innovation for HBO and without Eric and his team, it would not have emerged as what is widely regarded as television’s most elegant digital product.

Eric’s grace and professionalism are a tribute to his passion and commitment to HBO. He has agreed to work with us during a transition period to ensure continuity. During this period, Rob Roth, Otto Berkes, Shelley Brindle, Pam Levine and Simon Sutton will report to me.

Words are insufficient to express our gratitude, appreciation and respect for a beloved colleague. It is indisputable that he will immediately be inducted into the HBO Hall of Fame.

And here is the video of Kessler’s interview with me earlier this year at the second D: Dive Into Media conference:

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We believe that America is at a major digital turning point. Simply, we find tremendous benefits in online technology, but we also pay a personal price for those benefits. The question is: how high a price are we willing to pay?

— Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future, after a 10-year study by the Center incorporating more than 100 major issues involved in the impact of online technology in the United States