Radio and TV Talk

Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

Turner networks, including CNN, facing buyouts, job cuts

Although Turner Broadcasting appears to be doing well financially, its parent company Time Warner is putting pressure on the Atlanta-based networks to pare costs and restructure operations for the future.

Turner CEO John Martin in a memo last week used words like "streamlined," "nimble" and "efficient" to describe the future operations of Turner, which includes 13,000 employees across networks ranging from CNN and HLN to TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network. Half are based in Atlanta.

While CNN has gone through rounds of layoffs in the past, Turner Entertainment's cutbacks in the past have been relatively modest. Most Turner cable networks have generally seen steady growth over the years in terms of personnel.

CNN president Jeff Zucker told the news operations specifically in a phone call last week that "we are going to do less and have to do it with less," according to a story written by my colleagues Matt Kempner and Scott Trubey.

I've heard from different sources that the employee cuts could be anywhere from 15 to 20 percent. That could mean the loss of at least 2,000 employees across the board. It's not clear when the layoffs and early retirement offers will be made. If anything, this is causing some significant angst and concern among employees.

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The Wrap reports 550 buyouts will be offered this week alone. The Hollywood Reporter says it's closer to 600 and the buyouts will be offered to those 55 and older and severance will be slightly better than the standard two weeks for every year employed there..

My colleagues on Monday said two company executives said there is no chance Time Warner will move Turner operations outside of Atlanta but hundreds of buyouts are forthcoming, with more job cuts pending later in the year.

Martin, based in New York, took over for Atlanta-based Phil Kent a year ago as CEO. He's part of an exodus of senior executive talent out of Atlanta mostly to New York the past couple of years.

Here is John Martin's memo, as released by Capital New York.

August 19, 2014

In early June, I described to you one important component of our plan to maximize performance across the entire company, employing an initiative we are calling Turner 2020. In July, we posted a conversation on MyTurner in which I talked about the strategic case for Turner 2020, my expectations for the process and how I believe it will fuel new energy, growth and leadership for and across Turner Broadcasting. Today, I want to update you on our progress and the timing of important next steps.

The 2020 work thus far has been comprehensive and thoughtful. A core team of our colleagues has looked at the purpose, structure and fit of literally every department in the company—more than 700 in all. At the same time, they have researched competitive marketplace practices to understand how other companies—some in our space, and others who like us hold industry-leadership positions—are built and manage wide-ranging work in complex environments. Those benchmarks have been applied to our company to help build recommendations that will move us closer to our long-term goals for Turner.

Division leaders now are reviewing the working groups’ reports on their respective areas of oversight. Over the coming weeks, they will work with me to finalize the organizational changes we will implement. Our plan is to begin communicating in the next two months both general and specific changes we will make to structures, models and roles. You’ll see more information and updates on our progress. Resetting our business operations through the balance of 2014 will position us to move forward aggressively in the new year. We’ll start 2015 a more streamlined, nimble and efficient company focused on driving programming, monetization and innovation, in a culture that emphasizes and rewards continuous improvement.

I fully appreciate the scope and scale of the 2020 initiative and the work being done across our company to support it. I’ve been encouraged by how quickly it has come together and how intentionally we are moving, but that’s a reflection of how seriously people are taking this effort, how invested they are in the future of this company and the certainty that this is what we need to be focused on now. I also understand and appreciate that this work is being done while maintaining day-to-day business operations. Someone compared it to painting a moving train—not a bad analogy, but our goals are much more ambitious than a paint job.

I also appreciate your focus on our ratings and company’s performance. We’ve made meaningful progress in a number of important areas and I have great confidence in our future. Please continue to act where and how you can to help sustain and grow our momentum. Partner with your colleagues to plan and execute responsibly. And support the process of positioning our company to achieve sustained industry profitability and growth rates as we invest in our existing businesses while innovating to create new ones. The work we are doing today is fundamental to Turner’s success tomorrow, and next year, and through 2020.

Best regards,


About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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