Twitter has pulled funding for BuzzFeed’s “AM to DM” weekday morning news and pop-culture show on the social platform, leading the digital media company to suspend production and lay off employees working on the program.
In a memo to staff Wednesday, obtained by Variety, BuzzFeed head of studio Cindy Vanegas-Gesuale wrote that Twitter — citing the COVID-19 crisis — was dropping financial support for “AM to DM” as well as another BuzzFeed programming project that had been planned.
“[A]fter several high-level conversations, Twitter informed us that due to the impact of coronavirus on the business, they can no longer fund ‘AM to DM’ or the new programming initiative we’d planned with them in the near term,” Vanegas-Gesuale wrote in the memo. “Unfortunately, BuzzFeed cannot support these shows without the investment from Twitter, so we have no choice but to suspend production on both before the end of April.”
The last day for BuzzFeed staffers who are being laid off as a result of the shutdown of “AM to DM” and the other Twitter-backed show will be April 28, per the memo.
A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement, “We will continue to partner with BuzzFeed on the other content collaborations we have around the world, and explore new ways to bring compelling video content to people on Twitter.” Last month the company warned investors it would miss Q1 financial targets because of a drop in ad revenue despite a spurt of new Twitter users.
A BuzzFeed rep declined to comment. The shutdown of “AM to DM” was first reported in CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter.
In a statement, BuzzFeed News Union (which is affiliated with the NewsGuild of New York) called the shutdown of the Twitter shows “a devastating blow to our colleagues on the production teams who are losing their jobs.” The union said many of the laid-off staff members are not receiving severance pay or benefits past April because they’re classified as freelance contractors.
“The BuzzFeed News Union has been deeply frustrated by the company’s refusal to recognize that the writers, hosts and producers who have worked so hard on ‘AM to DM’ and the rest of our original video programming are an integral part of our unionized newsroom,” the union’s statement said.
First launched in September 2017, “AM to DM” was renewed by Twitter last year through the end of 2019. The hour-long live show, running Monday-Friday, has been a reliable audience draw: The last live-streamed edition of “AM to DM,” from March 27, has more than 540,000 viewers. Since then, the “AM to DM” crew has continued producing shorter segments from home featuring recent stay-at-home interviews with Wendi McLendon-Covey, Giancarlo Esposito, Rainn Wilson, Dan Bucatinsky and James Patterson.
Last month BuzzFeed cut salaries of most employees with top execs taking the biggest hit (and CEO Jonah Peretti forgoing pay for the time being), a move designed to avoid layoffs given the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her memo, Vanegas-Gesuale said BuzzFeed “will be working overtime to revive our partnership with Twitter, and we hope with as much of the current team as possible.” The “AM to DM” show was overseen by executive producer Emily Rothschild, who helped launch the show in 2017, after former EP David Hatcher exited to join ABC News in February.