UPDATED with CNN comment. CNN, despite booming ratings and profits during the Donald Trump administration, is acknowledging the limits of its digital reach, cutting back across its digital portfolio through a mix of layoffs and cost reductions.
The news first reached employees at a town hall meeting and then was initially reported by Vanity Fair, which said as many as 50 employees across CNN Money and video, production, tech and social units could be affected.
A CNN spokesperson disputed that the total would go as high as 50 employees, and noted that some positions could be repurposed to make the net even lower, but confirmed a restructuring of the digital operations is under way.
“We’ve been transparent about our strategy,” the spokesman told Deadline. “In order to innovate, grow and experiment, we’ve added more than 200 jobs in the past 18 months. Not every new project has paid off, so we will stop some activities in order to reallocate those resources and enable future experimentation. Organizations that do not make big bets and continuously evolve are the ones that fail.”
Earlier this year, the network shuttered Beme, which it had acquired for $25 million, and bid farewell to the video sharing service’s co-founder, YouTube personality Casey Neistat. CNN also ended production of original video content for Snapchat’s Discover platform.
While profits at CNN Digital did not hit internal targets in 2017, they still reportedly added up to $370 million, up from $300 million the year before. That’s still a healthy number considering the traditional side of CNN is racking up record ratings amid a surge of interest in politics in times of Trump. The digital side has scaled admirably given the serious headwinds being faced by formerly high-flying digital media brands like BuzzFeed or Mashable, the latter of which was sold at a fire-sale price after its ad revenue cratered.
The moves also come as CNN parent Time Warner nears a key moment in the Department of Justice lawsuit aiming to block its acquisition by AT&T. Execs from both companies have long emphasized the advantages of marrying the digital assets under the Turner roof, including CNN’s, with the distribution might of AT&T.