CNN begins first layoffs in years as newly merged parent cuts costs

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

CNN is facing its first major layoffs in many years as its parent company Warner Bros. Discovery is in major cost-cutting mode in a very uncertain economic environment.

Chris Licht, the new head of CNN, sent a memo this morning warning that the layoffs would start Wednesday with cuts to paid contributors and full-time employees Thursday. He had given a head’s up last month that such cuts were imminent before the end of the year.

“It will be a difficult time for everyone,” Licht wrote.

It’s unclear how many employees will ultimately lose their jobs. CNN worldwide has about 4,000 employees with about 1,500 of them based in Atlanta.

While Atlanta was where CNN started in 1980 as part of Ted Turner’s vision of a 24/7 cable news operation, headquarters shifted to New York City starting in the 2000s as major decisionmakers left Atlanta. All weekday anchors left Atlanta after Jeff Zucker took over in 2013. The primary CNN network now only has weekend anchors based in Atlanta but many producers remain. CNN International and CNN.com also have major operations out of CNN Center.

AT&T, before selling off CNN’s parent company, sold CNN Center. CNN has maintained its operations there for now, but there are plans to begin moving employees to the Midtown Turner campus next year.

Ad revenues for media companies are largely down this year and others companies such as Disney and AMC have announced planned cutbacks.

The last time CNN experienced any cuts was in 2018 when a modest 50 people were pared from digital operations.

CNN has seen a major drop in ratings this year and its profits will fall below $1 billion for the first time in several years. But it still remains a hugely profitable operation in the Warner Bros. Discovery family.

David Zaslav, chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery, has told investors he is seeking $3.5 billion in savings across the entire company, which includes TNT, TBS, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, truTV and Turner Classic Movies operations in Atlanta.

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