CNN signaled to its employee base Wednesday that it had begun to cut some staff amid economic headwinds that are affecting its parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.
“Today we will notify a limited number of individuals, largely some of our paid contributors, as part of a recalibrated reporting strategy. Tomorrow, we will notify impacted employees, and tomorrow afternoon I will follow up with more details on these changes.” CNN CEO Chris Licht told employees in a memo, “It will be a difficult time for everyone.”
One person familiar with the matter suggested cuts could affect employees based in New York and Atlanta most significantly, though that remained unclear. A CNN spokesperson could not be reached for immediate comment.
CNN typically operates with a staff of between 4,000 and 4,500, according to a person familiar with the matter. The layoffs have been anticipated since Licht in October signaled a tougher operating environment, and indicated he hoped to have cost cuts completed by the end of the year.
CNN’s search to cut costs comes as its corporate parent is grappling with some onerous business conditions. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav made a commitment to investors that the company would cut $3 billion in costs after acquiring the assets of the company formerly known as WarnerMedia from AT&T. The company recently indicated in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it would have to spend between $1 billion and $1.5 billion to scrap programming already commissioned and pay out severance packages. Warner Bros. Discovery also said it expected to take write-downs of potentially more than $4 billion in pre-tax charges through 2022.
Other media companies are also struggling. Walt Disney Co. is poised to examine staffing in weeks to come, and AMC Networks on Tuesday warned employees of “significant cutbacks” that will affect “every area of AMC Networks.”
At issue is a roiling economy that undermines the media sector’s efforts to invest in content for a growing audience for streaming video. Entertainment companies are trying to walk a tightrope, creating new venues for aficionados of watching programming on demand while hoping to keep the cash flow coming in from traditional broadcast and cable TV networks and old-school movie releases. A churning stock market, however, makes many of the advertisers and consumers who might support such efforts nervous and less willing to spend.
CNN has already cut some parts of its operations. Under Licht, the network canceled the long-running Sunday media-affairs program “Reliable Sources” and has trimmed back its ambitions in original documentary series and films, a hallmark of the network during the era of his predecessor, Jeff Zucker. Licht has also started to launch a new schedule of Sunday programming as well as a new morning program.