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Turner Shuts Down Super Deluxe, Citing Duplication With Other WarnerMedia Units

AT&T’s pruning of WarnerMedia continues: Turner announced that it is killing off Super Deluxe, its edgy digital and TV studio.

Turner is proud of the unique brand Super Deluxe has built over the past three years, and the cutting-edge content and innovations this incredible group of very talented people has made,” the cable programmer said in a statement. “However, there are now massive changes in the social and mobile-first ecosystem and duplication with other business units in our new WarnerMedia portfolio. Super Deluxe found inspiring ways of connecting with a new generation and many of their best practices will be adopted by other Turner properties as we redirect this investment back into our portfolio.”

Turner revived Super Deluxe in 2015, bringing back the short-form comedy brand that in its earlier incarnation lasted for about 18 months in the late 2000s. L.A.-based Super Deluxe was set up as an independent unit within Turner, which hired former CBS Films co-president Wolfgang Hammer as president.

With Super Deluxe winding down, Hammer will depart the company. Super Deluxe currently has 54 full-time employees. According to a source, there will be layoffs but the scope hasn’t been determined yet. Staffers will be encouraged to apply for open positions in other Turner divisions; those who don’t find a placement will receive severance.

“Super Deluxe is the future of entertainment for creative youth,” the studio says on its website. It claimed to reach 52 million monthly consumers 18-34, with an average of 165 million monthly views across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Super Deluxe was overseen by Kevin Reilly, chief creative officer for Turner Entertainment and president of TBS and TNT. In describing Super Deluxe in 2016, Reilly said, “Our belief in the value proposition of ‘premium plus personalization’ now extends into the emergent ecosystem of mobile-centric consumers and next-generation creators thriving in that space.”

The Super Deluxe team produced a steady stream of short-form irreverent and weird comedy segments, while it also had pursued a strategy of developing longer-form TV shows.

Among those is Netflix’s “Chambers,” a supernatural drama starring Uma Thurman executive produced by Stephen Gaghan (“Traffic”), currently in production in the Albuquerque, N.M., area. Super Deluxe will continue its production commitment on “Chambers.” The studio also produced “This Close” for SundanceNow, billed as first show written, produced, and created by deaf people.

In addition, Super Deluxe has set a Nov. 2 release for “The Passage,” a modern-day silent movie starring theatrical clown Philip Burgers, on iTunes and Turner’s FilmStruck SVOD service. “The Passage,” which Super Deluxe has positioned as an Oscar contender, may also be released on TBS’s digital channels. The studio’s projects in development included “Silver Foxes,” a gay senior-citizen sitcom from writers on “The Golden Girls” and other shows.

In another move evidently related to AT&T’s restructuring of WarnerMedia operations, on Oct. 16 Warner Bros. abruptly shut down DramaFever, the Korean drama and Asian programming streaming service, citing changes in the market dynamics for K-drama. WB had acquired DramaFever, founded in 2009, almost three years ago.

AT&T closed the Time Warner deal in June, renaming it WarnerMedia and putting telecom exec John Stankey in charge as CEO.

After AT&T first announced its bid for Time Warner in October 2016, Turner and Super Deluxe execs were optimistic about lobbying the telco to invest more into the digital studio — given that its content was ideally suited for a new generation of consumers for whom the smartphone is the “first screen.” Obviously, that didn’t pan out.

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