WarnerMedia will pledge $100 million in relief to workers affected by wide production shutdowns in film and television, CEO John Stankey said in a Friday staff memo obtained by Variety.
“We have paused many productions for the health and safety of employees, cast, crew and community. We are stepping up with a commitment of more than $100 million to assist team members of those productions during this time,” Stankey wrote of the extraordinary impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
IATSE, a union representing artisans and crew members on Hollywood productions, announced nearly two weeks ago that 120,000 workers had been displaced by shuttered sets — a number that has surely risen as planned shoots have been canceled while areas like New York and Los Angeles brace for the spread of Covid-19.
The $100 million has been committed to those who were actively working on projects across WarnerMedia, one individual with knowledge of the company said, including Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Television and HBO. Netflix announced a similar fund on March 20.
Despite multiple urgent challenges, Stankey said the launch of HBO Max — WarnerMedia’s hulked up streaming platform — is still on track for May.
“Our tech teams have been operating under very unique circumstances and have adapted quickly to a new way of working,” Stankey wrote. “And the marketing team has had to recast plans to reach potential subscribers in innovative ways.”
The executive admitted that advertising sales across networks and brands “will face headwinds in no small part due to the cancellation of NCAA March Madness and the suspension of the NBA season.” The silver lining, the memo notes, is “substantial increases in ratings as more people are working from and staying at home.”
CNN is up 132% during total day, and 167% in prime time since March 9, by the company’s estimates. CNN.com is averaging more than 50 million global daily unique multiplatform visitors, more than twice its 2019 average, Stankey said. HBO’s entire content library, new and old, is up in cable viewership and streaming, as well.
Read the full memo:
Words cannot adequately express my appreciation for all you are doing to support each other in a situation like nothing we’ve experienced before – as a company, as individuals, as community members, or as citizens of the world. We are part of a company that has a distinct responsibility to society at times like these and I’m proud of your efforts to keep the public connected through technology, trusted information and storytelling.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, nothing has been more important than protecting the health and safety of our employees. Most of us are about two weeks into our new work-from-home arrangements, while it has been more than two months for many in our Asia Pacific offices. And we all owe great thanks to those keeping our news, networks and infrastructure going strong by continuing to work in the office, with new protocols and social distancing measures in place. It has been a big change. It’s a new way to work, but it’s also a new way of life, balancing the needs of work, family, loved ones and our own well-being. I agree it hasn’t been easy, but I’m incredibly proud of how we’ve flexed, adapted and progressed together.
We’ve also had to reorient how our businesses operate in this uncharted landscape, and our senior leaders are working together to adapt and execute in new ways. To that end, I’d like to share some status updates, and some of the ways we are facing these challenges.
Our tech teams have been operating under very unique circumstances and have adapted quickly to a new way of working so that the launch of HBO Max remains on schedule for May; and the marketing team has had to recast plans to reach potential subscribers in innovative ways.
Global theater closures have disrupted the film industry – and as you’ve seen in recent announcements, we are reworking our release schedule to find optimal dates to deliver our must-see films to consumers in theaters when they reopen; and with more people viewing from home, Warner Bros. is experimenting with accelerating home entertainment viewing.
In general, advertising will face headwinds in no small part due to the cancellation of NCAA March Madness and the suspension of the NBA season. As a result, our ad sales teams have been collaborating with Xandr and our clients to develop innovative solutions that provide new value to brands across our portfolio, including our linear networks where we’ve seen substantial increases in ratings as more people are working from and staying at home.
We have paused many productions for the health and safety of employees, cast, crew and community. We are stepping up with a commitment of more than $100 million to assist team members of those productions during this time. And as things evolve, we’ll continue to evaluate how we can best respond to the challenges we face as an industry as a result of this pandemic.
We’re all focused on overcoming these business challenges, but let’s not forget the important role we play for our audiences around the world. As people weather this storm with family and loved ones, they are turning to the content you make possible:
Our colleagues at CNN have once again defined what it means to be dedicated, unrelenting seekers of facts and truth to ensure citizens around the globe are properly informed in an unprecedented time. In the U.S. alone viewership has increased more than 132% during total day, and 167% in prime time since March 9; and digitally, CNN is averaging more than 50 million global daily unique multiplatform visitors (more than twice its 2019 average). In this critical time more people are choosing to get their news from CNN than any other news outlet.HBO is showing increased viewership across all its platforms, and across virtually every genre including both recent and classic series, documentaries and movies. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has shown strong increases in both console and mobile games.
The strength of our linear networks TNT, TBS and TruTV continues as all are experiencing significant increases, with TNT & TBS currently ranking #1 and #2 in audience gains in total day and primetime.
We drive connection and shape culture, and doing so at a time when people are isolated is a reminder of what sets WarnerMedia apart.
I want to acknowledge the tremendous effort of our management teams. As I routinely check in with leaders across the company, they are clear about their commitment to keeping you informed as we navigate through this time. Already, the proactive stance that they have taken with our employees and our customers gives me great confidence that we will succeed together and be stronger together as a result. We don’t know how long we’ll be in this situation, but I am incredibly proud of how we are adapting during our global work-from-home efforts.
Thank you for your resilience, agility and commitment.