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TNT trims 15 staffers in the Originals group

Firm cites cost-effficiency for layoffs

NEW YORK — In an effort to become more cost-efficient, TNT will lay off approximately 15 staffers in its West Coast Originals group.

The cuts will hit business affairs, development, accounting and production the hardest. The only top creative exec to exit is Iris Grossman, senior VP of talent and casting, who is stepping down voluntarily.

Based in Los Angeles, Grossman was responsible for overseeing all talent and casting issues related to TNT Originals films and specials. She joined TNT in 1993 after a dozen years at a TV agent at ICM.

Grossman is leaving “in order to spend more time with her family and pursue independent creative opportunities within the industry,” said a network spokeswoman, who added TNT will be one of Grossman’s primary clients.

Insiders insist the cost-cutting measures were instituted before the arrival of Jamie Kellner, who was named chairman-CEO of Turner Broadcasting in March. Bob DiBitetto, TNT prexy of original programming, oversees the West Coast Originals group.

Since January, TNT has been conducting an operational analysis to determine whether there were any staffing redundancies. The results found the staff was inflated in some areas. Early in the year, a handful of staffers were laid off in the Originals group.

“With these organizational changes, TNT’s original programming group is more strategically and efficiently positioned for future growth,” said a TNT spokeswoman. “Employees who are directly affected by this reorganization have been informed, and we are working closely with them through this period of transition.”

Still pumping

The cable net said TNT will continue to churn out the same number of originals. The originals group was responsible for “The Mists of Avalon” and the upcoming “James Dean,” as well as the current series “Witchblade.”

“Witchblade” has been a ratings success, but “Bull,” the net’s previous venture into original series, didn’t fare as well. After earning lackluster ratings, TNT pulled the plug on the series after airing 11 episodes. In May, the cable net axed its other original series, “Breaking News,” before it even got on the air.

While the network is facing a soft upfront advertising market and a dip in ratings, a spokeswoman said the cuts were unrelated.

Along with other general-entertainment cable nets, TNT has been giving substantial discounts to advertisers in the upfront sales market.

For second-quarter 2001, TNT averaged a 1.7 household rating in primetime, down 11% from a 1.9 during second-quarter 2000.

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