Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of some of the nation’s best-known cable TV networks, will cut nearly 1,500 jobs or 10% of its 14,000- person work force as part of a broader move by parent company Time Warner to streamline operating costs.
In a statement, Turner said approximately 1,475 positions will be eliminated through a mix of buyouts, layoffs and elimination of unfilled slots. Approximately 300 jobs will be eliminated at CNN, or 8.5% of its staff, according to a report posted on the cable-news outlet’s CNNMoney. Turner also operates TNT, TBS, TruTV, HLN and Cartoon Network, among other holdings.
The cuts “will come at all levels from across the company’s news, entertainment, kids, young adult and sports networks and businesses, as well as corporate functions, in 18 Turner locations around the world,” the company said in a statement. In 2013, Turner was responsible for the bulk of Time Warner’s operating income – about $3.5 billion, compared with around $1.8 billion from HBO and about $1.3 billion from Warner Bros.
Turner Broadcasting has been under the scrutiny of Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes for months. In April, Bewkes told investors that performance at outlets like TNT and TruTV had experienced “a significant drop-off” and that TNT had “lost ground with younger viewers” because its programming was not as edgy as fare that has turned up regularly on competing outlets such as FX and AMC.
Since that time, Turner has lost two of its top programming executives, Steve Koonin and Michael Wright. Koonin left to run the Atlanta Hawks while Wright has taken over the chief executive position at DreamWorks Studios.
Time Warner has also moved to reduce headcount at its Warner Bros. studio. The company has been under some pressure to demonstrate growth prospects in the wake of an unsolicited bid by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. Murdoch said in August he would abandon his efforts to buy Time Warner for $80 billion, a move that sent Time Warner shares soaring when first made public in the summer, then had them settle back down to earth.
Turner has made a number of moves aimed at adding spark to its holdings. Under Jeff Zucker, CNN has charted a course of adding more nonfiction programming to primetime that is not based on current events, while sister network HLN is attempting to tie its shows more closely to topics trending in social media. Time Warner had mulled a deal that would give upstart outlet Vice Media some say over HLN programming before scuttling the idea.
At its entertainment networks, Turner secured a nine-year renewal of its deal with the National Basketball League Monday and in May renewed its deal with TBS late-night host Conan O’Brien.
In coming days, Turner is expected to name Kevin Reilly, the former programming chief at 21st Century Fox’s Fox Broadcasting, to oversee the content efforts at its entertainment networks. It is not clear whether Reilly will report to David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting or if he will report directly to John K. Martin, the unit’s chief executive, though that has likely been a significant part of the discussions.
Turner said employees whose positions are directly impacted would be advised over the next two weeks and offered severance pay for transition.