Longtime HBO communications head Quentin Schaffer is stepping down from his post next month after 39 years as a key architect of HBO’s premium TV brand.
Schaffer will exit as HBO’s executive VP of corporate communications next month, after steering HBO through one last Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills. He is the latest in a string of departures of long-serving executives at HBO. It comes five months after HBO’s new parent company, AT&T’s WarnerMedia, shook up the status quo at the company with the appointment of Bob Greenblatt as content chief overseeing HBO, Turner’s entertainment networks and the HBO Max direct to consumer platform coming next year from WarnerMedia. Greenblatt in turn recruited his own corporate communications chief in ABC alum Kevin Brockman as executive VP of global communications for WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer.
Based in New York, Schaffer is a well-loved figure on both coasts at HBO. He joined the company as a senior publicist in 1980, which gave him a front row seat to the wave of industry-changing innovations that HBO unleashed starting in the late 1980s. He helped steer publicity and Emmy campaigns for such landmark HBO series as “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” “The Wire,” “Big Little Lies” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
In a memo announcing his resignation to staffers, Schaffer reflected on the array of experiences that came with his job.
Schaffer wrote that his personal “montage of memories” included “screening of ‘Band of Brothers’ on the beaches of Normandy with the men of Easy Company” and “a visit to Nelson Mandela’s office while in Johannesburg for the Whitney Houston concert, being in Moscow right after Perestroika for a screening of ‘Stalin’ (I shouldn’t have been there as my daughter was born the same time), the barrage of calls after ‘The Sopranos’ went to black, the first-ever (theatrical) screening of a TV Show for ‘Sex and the City.’ “
For most of Schaffer’s tenure, he reported directly to Richard Plepler, HBO’s former PR chief turned chairman and CEO, who left the company in late February amid the Greenblatt shakeup.
“HBO has been an amazing place to work alongside the brightest and most creative people I’ve ever come across, particularly the communications team,” Schaffer said in a statement. “What made it special was that we always had an enviable slate of programming to work with. In looking back, I feel lucky to have had the greatest temporary job in the business. For 39 years. With Kevin (Brockman) now here, the team is in good hands and I can feel comfortable moving on.”
Brockman paid tribute to his predecessor.
“I’ve been doing PR for a long-time and have always admired the magic of HBO’s amazing publicity machine, first from afar and now close-up,” Brockman said. “I know how big a part Quentin played in leading those efforts.”
Here is Schaffer’s full memo to HBO staffers:
To: HBO Staff
Fm: Quentin Schaffer
FADE IN. When I first began at HBO, I was sent to Nashville to cover a country music special. The legendary rock star Jerry Lee Lewis threatened my life because he didn’t like an innocent question I had asked for a press release. My HBO career appeared to be over after only 30 days. Little did I know that he was merely joking with me and little did I know I’d be at HBO 39 years (yes, longer than Glenn Whitehead). FLASH AHEAD as I look back on an amazing career and the honor of running HBO’s top-notch PR operation.
FOCUS ON A MONTAGE OF MEMORIES that included a screening of Band of Brothers on the beaches of Normandy with the men of Easy Company, my 15 minutes as Michael Jackson’s spokesman in 1993, a visit to Nelson Mandela’s office while in Johannesburg for the Whitney Houston concert, being in Moscow right after Perestroika for a screening of Stalin (I shouldn’t have been there as my daughter was born the same time), the barrage of calls after The Sopranos went to black, the first ever screening of a TV Show for Sex and the City, more than 100 TCA press tours with the likes of Billy Joel, Britney Spears, George Clooney, Monica Lewinsky, 8 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies, events at the White House with Bill Clinton and then Barack Obama as well as a screening in Kennebunkport with both Presidents Bush, a daring visit to the West Bank to see the Church of the Nativity, set visits to Rome and Belfast and the final season premiere at Radio City Music Hall for Game of Thrones with 42 cast members, 1500 HBO employees and 5000 guests. Oh, and perhaps most importantly, I met my wife here.
CUT TO Present Day. Throughout my HBO career I’ve always been able to answer Yes to the two questions essential to ask in any job: Am I having fun and am I still learning. So many of you have made that possible as you were the brightest, kindest, funniest and most special people I could ever have worked with, starting at the top with my boss of 28 years Richard Plepler and my dear colleague of 35 years Nancy Lesser. Thanks to you all for such a great experience. It’s been the greatest temporary job. For 39 years. And now, when summer ends, I’ve decided to move onto something new. My wife has convinced me I could have just as much fun and learn new things if I spent more time with her. CUT TO BLACK (courtesy of David Chase).
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