A network spokesperson tells Deadline the exits are purely related to the buyouts and do not involve any layoffs, contrary to a press report earlier on Monday. A WarnerMedia rep said there was no truth to the initial report of layoffs.
The buyouts are consistent with similar offerings at HBO and Turner and will see dozens of seasoned employees leave the news brand. WarnerMedia parent AT&T is looking to restructure and reduce what was $170 billion in net debt as of the end of 2018.
The news comes the same day CNN began broadcasting some of its shows from its new WarnerMedia digs at 30 Hudson Yards, with about 1.5 million square feet of office space putting the WarnerMedia divisions under the same New York roof for the first time. Office workers, including many at CNN, had already made the move from Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, but the new studios are now lighting up on Manhattan’s Far West Side.
WarnerMedia has been executing restructuring moves beginning in earnest after the federal government lost its appeal of a lawsuit challenging AT&T’s $81 billion takeover of Time Warner. The company has been lowering that leverage through various means, among them setting a deal to unload its 10% stake in Hulu.
Last month, it finalized a $2.2 billion deal to sell the Hudson Yards space to Related Companies, signing a lease that will keep the media company there through early 2034. In March, HBO announced it was closing the Hauppauge Communications Center on New York’s Long Island, with about 75 of the roughly 200 positions at the 35-year-old broadcast operations facility expected to be eliminated.
AT&T reported a debt reduction of $2.3 billion in the first quarter this year.
As far as employment, the cuts come after Turner boss David Levy, a 32-year company veteran, said he was stepping down. That move elevated CNN chief Jeff Zucker to the role of chairman, WarnerMedia News & Sports, and president of CNN.
In addition, Richard Plepler and several other executives left the fold at HBO, which is now part of WarnerMedia Entertainment topped by Bob Greenblatt.
Patrick Hipes contributed to this report.
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