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WarnerMedia, Its Ranks Already Thinner, Looks To Shed Thousands More Jobs Amid COVID-19

WarnerMedia is looking to implement a fresh round of layoffs as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the entertainment business.

The company confirmed to Deadline in a statement that it has “not been immune” to the pandemic and is looking at further cuts. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report about the newest reductions and indicated that WarnerMedia is eyeing a 20% reduction of its costs to counter a downturn in revenue across theatrical film, TV networks and other businesses. That would mean thousands of positions.

WarnerMedia would not comment on any specific numbers.

“Like the rest of the entertainment industry, we have not been immune to the significant impact of the pandemic,” the company said in a statement. “That includes an acceleration in shifting consumer behavior, especially in the way content is being viewed. We shared with our employees recently that the organization will be restructured to respond to those changes and prioritize growth opportunities, with an emphasis on direct-to-consumer. We are in the midst of that process and it will involve increased investments in priority areas and, unfortunately, reductions in others.”

WarnerMedia, which has been led by CEO Jason Kilar since the spring, is among the major media companies pivoting toward streaming. Its HBO Max service launched in May but has not gotten much traction as of yet, drawing 4.1 million sign-ups in its first month. One of the major efforts since the company was acquired by AT&T in 2018 has been unifying long-autonomous divisions HBO, Warner Bros and Turner. The streamlining of those businesses has already resulted in a significant exodus of personnel.

Parent AT&T, which paid $81 billion to acquire WarnerMedia in 2018 in a deal dogged by antitrust regulators. It has been saddled with a debt load of more than $150 billion since the year began and has looked at selling off DirecTV and its

WarnerMedia has had several rounds of cuts, most recently toward the end of the summer, when it let go of several hundred workers.

Layoffs have become a seemingly permanent, ongoing feature of the entertainment landscape as COVID and streaming reshape the businesses.

Walt Disney most recently announced 28,000 layoffs at its U.S. theme parks.

In late summer, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell confirmed that separations – reported to be in the hundreds if not thousands – were in the works there as well in part due to a streamlining under Mark Lazarus combining TV and streaming. Universal theme parks, movie and TV production, Telemundo and regional sports networks were also likely to be impacted.

ViacomCBS has also laid off hundreds as it pursues synergies promised in its merger late last year.

 

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