Turner Broadcasting, the parent of TCM, announced today that they’ll reduce their global workforce by roughly 10 percent through a combination of layoffs and buyouts. Roughly 1,475 positions – out of 14,000 worldwide – will be eliminated, with affected employees expected to be informed of their fates within the next two weeks.
The cuts are expected to hit hardest in Atlanta, the company’s base of operation since its founding by Ted Turner in 1970. Nearly half its employees – 6,500 of 14,000 – are based there, and approximately 975 of them can expect pink slips. CNN alone is expected to lose 300 staffers, with 170 layoffs and the balance accepting voluntary buyouts the company offered to employees 55 and older with ten years or more at Turner.
Although substantial, the cuts are not as far-reaching as had been feared. When confirmation of headcount reductions was first revealed in an August 19 company-wide memo by Turner’s New York-based CEO John Martin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution estimated that the final tally could be as much as 15-to-20-percent of the total company, with an aggregate loss of as many as 2,000 employees. The actual cuts will impact roughly 10 percent of the workforce, and more than 15 percent of Turner’s Atlanta-based employees.
First announced by Martin on June 2, the “Turner 2020” initiative seeks to reduce spending and maximize growth and profitability, leading up to the 50th anniversary of the company a little more than five years from now. In the shorter term, Time Warner appears to be getting its financial house in order in advance of a meeting next week with Wall Street analysts to convince them the company is on the right track, after the board rejected a takeover offer from Rupert Murdoch that would have valued Time Warner at $85 per share. Time Warner stock closed today at $73.82
In addition to headcount reductions, management changes have altered the face of the company in recent months. Martin, the former Chief Financial Officer of Turner parent Time Warner, took over as CEO earlier this year, replacing Atlanta-based Phil Kent (a 12-year veteran of the company). And just last week, former Time Warner SVP and controller Pascal Desroches was named Turner CFO. In April, Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin departed after 12 years with the company. And TNT, TBS and TCM programming president Michael Wright is also leaving after a decade; a search is currently underway for his replacement.
“Everybody at TCM is very optimistic; our parent company recognizes that TCM is a very valuable jewel in the portfolio, if you will. So we’re all optimistic that things will stay relatively okay,” he said. “But to coin a phrase from William Goldman, nobody really knows anything.”
But the news wasn’t all bad today, at least if you’re a basketball fan. Turner agreed to contribute about $10 billion to a nine-year, $24 billion extension of its joint NBA rights deal with Disney’s ESPN. According to Deadline, “TNT will pick up 12 additional live regular season games each year, for a total of 64” beginning with the 2016 season.
So there’s that.