Cable Tech

Big layoffs coming soon at WarnerMedia – report

WarnerMedia, the unit spawned from AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner in 2018, is planning to cut "thousands" of jobs amid a restructuring forced by a pandemic that has applied major pressure on the film and TV industry and other media giants such as Disney and NBCUniversal, The Wall Street Journal reported.

That restructuring, which would reportedly impact the unit running the Warner Bros. studio and programmers such as HBO, TBS and TNT in the coming weeks, would come as AT&T seeks to cut costs by up to 20%, the pub said, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

"Like the rest of the entertainment industry, we have not been immune to the significant impact of the pandemic," WarnerMedia told the WSJ. "We are in the midst of that process and it will involve increased investments in priority areas and, unfortunately, reductions in others."

The paper said this round of "substantial cuts" would follow a reduction of more than 500 jobs at Warner Bros. in August, and enter the picture about five months after former Hulu chief Jason Kilar took over the unit and started to clean house.

Those latest moves would also come as the TV ad market continues to struggle. A few months ago, as a sign of shifting entertainment business models, WarnerMedia launched HBO Max, a new, supersized subscription streaming service that's expected to add a lower cost ad-supported tier sometime next year.

As noted by the WSJ, the pandemic has also had a disastrous impact on Warner Bros.' movie business, forcing the studio to push major titles such as "Wonder Woman 1984" from October to late 2021 and the premieres of "Dune" and "The Batman" from 2021 to 2022.

"There's nothing that's sacred anywhere in the business," AT&T CEO John Stankey told the WSJ in a recent interview about the whole of AT&T. "WarnerMedia is no exception to that."

Amid its broader plans to cut costs and reset its priorities, AT&T has reportedly received low-ball bids for its struggling DirecTV satellite TV business and is trying to unload its Xandr advanced advertising unit.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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