Rooster Teeth, for the first time in its 16-year history, has made a broad cutback in its workforce — laying off 13% of its employees, or about 50 staffers.
The layoffs at Rooster Teeth, the sci-fi, gaming and fandom division of WarnerMedia’s Otter Media, were confirmed by the company Thursday. Rooster Teeth co-founder and CEO Matt Hullum, in a memo to staff obtained by Variety, indicated the layoffs were needed to right-size the organization to achieve future growth targets.
“As we looked ahead at all of our upcoming opportunities and challenges, we had to make some difficult decisions about how we are organized,” Hullum wrote. He added that the layoffs are not “reflective of anyone’s individual performance, and we’re thankful for all that our former colleagues have contributed.”
Rooster Teeth’s layoffs affected nearly all areas of the organization, including content production, advertising, distribution and e-commerce; no events staff were let go, according to a rep. The company previously reported a headcount of 419 employees as of July. The Rooster Teeth spokesperson declined to say whether senior-level execs were let go as part of the layoffs.
An online-video pioneer, Rooster Teeth was founded in 2003 and acquired in 2014 by Fullscreen, which then became part of Otter Media, previously a joint venture of Chernin Group and AT&T. Last year AT&T bought out Chernin Group’s stake in the JV and subsequently moved Otter Media under the aegis of WarnerMedia Entertainment.
Under a reorg at Otter Media in late 2018, 10% of the division’s staff was laid off, and Rooster Teeth was moved under Otter’s Ellation group alongside Crunchyroll and VRV. At the time, sources said the brunt of those cutbacks affected Fullscreen and that the teams at Ellation (including Rooster Teeth) were unaffected.
In early 2019, WarnerMedia shuttered the Machinima brand, which had previously been part of Warner Bros., after which Rooster Teeth picked up several Machinima original shows.
Rooster Teeth’s content franchises include long-running sci-fi parody “Red vs. Blue” and animated series “RWBY,” the first Western anime series to be distributed in Japan. Its animated dystopian mecha series “Gen:Lock,” with Michael B. Jordan voicing the lead role, launched earlier this year, first available on Rooster Teeth’s streaming-subscription service before it began airing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim this summer.
Rooster Teeth counts over 45 million subscribers across its YouTube channels and 3 million registered community members on roosterteeth.com. It also produces RTX, series of annual gaming and internet conventions, runs a game-publishing division, and sells an array of merchandise.
Read Hullum’s full memo to Rooster Teeth staffers:
Hello everyone –
Today has been a tough day at Rooster Teeth, and is unlike any other moment of organizational change we have experienced together. As we looked ahead at all of our upcoming opportunities and challenges, we had to make some difficult decisions about how we are organized. Unfortunately, this meant that earlier today we reduced the size of our team by approximately 13% overall. This decision is not reflective of anyone’s individual performance, and we’re thankful for all that our former colleagues have contributed. We will be doing everything we can to ease their transition, including helping them find their next opportunities.
As discussed during your department meetings, our managers have adjusted their teams to meet the needs of our future. Our industry is evolving rapidly, and we have to evolve with it if we want to succeed. As we begin a new chapter, we have the opportunity to focus on what we do best: creating great content for our community and partners, supported by key lines of business including advertising, distribution, memberships, events, and e-commerce.
We’ve accomplished a lot this year already: gen:LOCK and Immersion have both debuted successfully on TV, we’ve announced new content partnerships with DC, HBO Max and others, and we continue to produce the amazing programming that brings joy to our community every single day.
We can look forward to more success along this path: continuing to grow our relationships within the WarnerMedia family and beyond, and finding new platforms where we can continue our pioneering creative work in gaming, animation, and comedy.
With many teams moving to new office space tomorrow, we will meet briefly on Monday to discuss these changes further. I look forward to seeing you, as I always find renewed confidence, optimism, and excitement in our mission when we come together as a team.
Finally, I want to wish all our former co-workers the very best. We’re thankful for the passion and creativity that they brought to Rooster Teeth, and grateful for the friendships we’ve formed. I have been fortunate to work closely with many of those leaving today, and I’m sad to say goodbye, but also incredibly proud of what we accomplished together.