After months of speculation in the wake of announced layoffs and buyouts, and a grassroots campaign in support of Turner Classic Movies and its staff, the impact cost-cutting initiatives at Turner Broadcasting will have on TCM is now clear.
First, the good news: TCM will continue to air classic films without commercial interruption, as the channel has done for the last two decades, to the delight of millions of viewers (including this one). And the popular “off-channel” experiences that allow TCM’s fiercely loyal fan base (again, looking in the mirror) to connect with the network in-person will continue.
“TCM is committed to maintaining the same high quality you’ve come to expect from us,” a Turner spokesperson told me. “That includes TCM’s extraordinary lineup of movies, which will continue to be presented uncut and commercial-free, as well as live events like the TCM Classic Film Festival and the TCM Cruise.”
Also, in the wake of an extensive management reorganization at Turner that culminated with the hiring of Kevin Reilly as the new head of TNT and TBS last week, I can report exclusively that TCM has a new general manager.
Effective immediately, Jennifer Dorian, previously the chief strategy officer for Turner Entertainment Networks, takes on the position of general manager of TCM, a role formerly filled by Jeff Gregor. Whereas Gregor managed the channel in addition to his responsibilities as chief marketing officer for sister networks TNT and TBS, Dorian will be dedicated solely to TCM, which will remain based in Atlanta.
In her previous role with the company, Dorian had been in charge of strategy development for TNT, TBS, truTV, and TCM. She joined Turner fifteen years ago after stints at Pizza Hut, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company and led the rebranding of TNT in 2000 and TBS in 2004, as well as the relaunch of Court TV as truTV in 2007. But perhaps most notably to TCM fans, according to Deadline Hollywood, Turner management credits Dorian “with the exploration of brand extension into new areas – such as TCM’s Classic Film Festival.” The fact that the new TCM chief helped to establish a hugely popular venue for viewers to connect with the network face-to-face should be encouraging to loyalists.
Now the bad news: there will be fewer of those faces at the network to connect with.
I’m told by a source that Turner has laid off approximately a dozen TCM employees as part of the company-wide Turner 2020 initiative, first revealed by CEO John Martin on June 2. While the loss of even one job at is disheartening, it appears that TCM has been impacted the least of all the Turner networks in terms of headcount reductions.
On October 6, Turner announced they would eliminate 1,475 positions, including 975 in Atlanta, and those layoffs are already rolling out across the company. CNN has been hit with staff reductions in Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York and Los Angeles, with roughly 300 positions – 8 percent of the network’s total staff – expected to be eliminated. And Layoff Fever has also spread throughout parent company Time Warner, with HBO expected to eliminate 7% of its 2,400 employees and Warner Bros. already in the process of cutting 10% of its 9,000 person workforce.
So how did TCM emerge from a harrowing and tumultuous period largely intact, when other sister networks within the company did not? Part of that may have to do with the channel’s relatively small full time staff. But perhaps a larger component has to do with Turner’s acknowledgment that TCM is a core brand with a passionate viewership that is fiercely loyal to the channel and its staff.
“(O)ur parent company recognizes that TCM is a very valuable jewel in the portfolio,” Scott McGee, a senior writer/producer at the network, told Alicia Mayer and me on a recent episode of Hollywood Time Machine.
With Dorian, a marketing guru described as “a big champion of the (TCM) brand,” at the helm, a newly autonomous Turner Classic Movies may be poised for growth in areas viewers can only imagine. And, as DISH network continues the inexplicable blackout of the channel that began on October 21, now may be the time for TCM to start thinking outside the (cable) box.