Warner Bros TV Layoffs: Studio Cuts 26% Of Workforce, Unscripted & Animation Divisions Merge Functions

Warner Bros Television is cutting more than a quarter of its workforce as part of its parent company’s drive to cut costs.

The studio is cutting 26% of personnel, a total of 125 positions, across scripted, unscripted and animation.

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Warner Bros TV Workshop & Stage 13 Shut Down As Part Of WBD Cuts

Deadline revealed Monday that cuts would likely come today and we revealed earlier that Warner Bros. TV was shutting down digital production arm Stage 13 and its Warner Bros Television Workshop – a key plank in finding and mentoring new and diverse talent.

These cuts come with a number of structural changes put in place by chairman Channing Dungey, particularly in unscripted and animation. She called the move “incredibly difficult” as she pointed to a “tumultuous time” in the industry (read her full memo to staff below).

The television studio is the latest arm of Warner Bros Discovery forced to make cuts in order to save at least $3 billion after the merger overseen by David Zaslav. It comes after HBO and HBO Max laid off 14% of staff, around 70 people, in August.

The total number of employees losing their jobs is 82, some 19% of the current workforce, while Dungey and her team are also not filling 43 vacant positions. This means that there are a total of 125 positions eliminated.

UNSCRIPTED

On the unscripted side, which continues to be run by Mike Darnell, President of Warner Bros. Unscripted and Alternative Television, there are some strategic changes across its three divisions: Warner Horizon Unscripted Television, Telepictures and Shed Media.

The company is combining the creative development and programming roles across Warner Horizon Unscripted Television, which is behind series such as The Voice and The Bachelor, and Telepictures, which produces The Jennifer Hudson Show and previously made The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Bridgette Theriault and Dan Sacks will run Warner Horizon, following the departure of Warner Horizon’s Brooke Karzen after 20 years. David McGuire will run Telepictures.

The move comes after the bringing together of many of the divisions’ back-end functions as part of a restructure in 2020 that saw Kevin Fortson, in physical production, and Matt Matzkin, in business affairs, legal and finance, work across all three divisions. Both Fortson and Matzkin remain.

Shed Media, which is behind series such as Bravo’s Below Deck Adventure and a number of The Real Housewives shows, will remain a stand-alone unit led by Lisa Shannon and Dan Peirson.

The studio is not merging Warner Horizon Unscripted Television and Telepictures fully, ostensibly because of the differences in the ways that the shows are produced. Warner Horizon makes union shows and Telepictures is non-union.

There will be no changes on the international side, where Warner Bros operates more than 20 production companies across the world, or at All3Media, which comes to the company via the Discovery ownership stake.

SCRIPTED

On the scripted side of the business, Brett Paul will remain as President of Warner Bros Television, which is not making any structural changes to the way that business is run, having previously brought together Warner Bros Television and cable/streaming unit Warner Horizon Scripted Television in 2020.

Clancy Collins White will continue to run development and Vicki Dummer will oversee current programming, both continuing to report to Dungey. Adrienne Turner will continue to run comedy development and oversee the comedy team. Adam Glick continues to serve as head of business affairs, Sue Palladino as head of production, and Mele Nagler as head of casting.

Cuts will be made at lower levels of this division.

However, the bigger moves in scripted was the closure of digital studio Stage 13 and the end of its workshops, which we revealed earlier Tuesday.

The scripted moves are a continuation of the TV group’s changing business, particularly an increasing focus on streaming and cable programming, which is thought to include around 65% of its current programming, amid the decline of broadcast TV.

This has been further extenuated by the ownership change at the CW, where Warner Bros TV and CBS Studios were the sole feeders of its scripted originals pipeline.

ANIMATION

In animation, Warner Bros Television is bringing together some of the creative and programming teams within two of its three animation studios: Warner Bros Animation and Cartoon Network Studios.

While current programming, casting, legal and business affairs had worked across all three (the group includes Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe), it will now bring together development and production teams at Warner Animation and Cartoon Network Studios.

The three labels will continue and will continue to be run by Sam Register.

The kids and family series development team will be led by Audrey Diehl, adult animation development will be led by Peter Girardi, and animated longform series development will be led by Sammy Perlmutter, with Bobbie Page leading main production. Ed Adams will continue as EVP and GM.

Shows that come out of these divisions include Invincible Fight Girl, Unicorn: Warriors Eternal and Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake.

The company said that multiple projects remain in active production and development and despite the restructuring, production output is “relatively unchanged.”

Here is Dungey’s note to staff today:

Team,

Today I write to you with sad news and a heavy heart. As many of you have already learned, some of our treasured colleagues will be leaving the company because of restructuring and realignment within our group. This was strictly a business decision, made as thoughtfully and compassionately as possible by studio leadership. But understanding that doesn’t make this moment any easier. These colleagues are more than just people with whom we’ve worked, they are part of our work family. We spend more time together than we do with most other people in our lives. Because of that, this loss is painful and difficult. For those impacted by the changes, I want you to know how grateful I am for your contributions – in some cases, spanning decades – and how deeply sorry I am.

There are a few changes happening within WBTVG that I would like to make specific note of here:

As part of the strategic realignment on the unscripted side, run by Mike Darnell, President, Warner Bros. Unscripted Television, we are making some changes aimed at finding synergies within the group, which includes Warner Horizon Unscripted Television, Telepictures, and Shed Media.

As you may have read yesterday, Brooke Karzen, head of Warner Horizon Unscripted Television, informed us in the last few weeks that she would like to try something new with her career after a highly successful 22-year run at the company. Brooke has been synonymous with The Bachelor brand for more than 20 years, overseeing the original show and developing The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, and many other extensions that have propelled The Bachelor into a global hit franchise. Her other successes include Emmy winner The Voice, Ellen’s Game of Games, and the Friends and Harry Potter reunion specials, to name just a few. Please join me in saluting Brooke for her tremendous accomplishments and wishing her the best in the future.

As a result of Brooke’s departure, Bridgette Theriault and Dan Sacks will now be leading Warner Horizon. We are combining some creative development and programming roles to work across both Warner Horizon and Telepictures, with David McGuire continuing to lead Telepictures. Lisa Shannon and Dan Peirson will continue to run Shed Media.

Working across all three unscripted divisions, Kevin Fortson continues to lead all aspects of physical production (including budgeting, scheduling, staffing, and more), and Matt Matzkinmaintains oversight of all business affairs, legal, and finance for unscripted series.

In Animation, run by Sam Register, President, Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios, we are implementing a new streamlined structure in which the development and main production teams will now work across both Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios. The kids and family series development team will be led by Audrey Diehl, adult animation development will be led by Peter Girardi, and animated longform series development will be led by Sammy Perlmutter, with Bobbie Page leading main production. This is an extension of the cross-studio teams that have already been in place for current programming, casting, legal and business affairs, and artist relations. Ed Adams will continue as Executive Vice President and General Manager.

On the scripted side, run by Brett Paul, President, Warner Bros. Television, our senior creative leadership team remains in place. Clancy Collins White continues to head up development, with Vicki Dummer as head of current programming. Adam Glick continues to serve as head of business affairs, Sue Palladino as head of production, and Mele Nagler as head of casting.

We will be closing Stage 13, which was founded in 2017 under the former Warner Bros. Digital Networks division as a studio for original digital shortform programming and has produced past series such as Special and It’s Bruno! for Netflix, Two Sentence Horror Stories for The CW/Netflix, and more. WBTV has already been supervising Stage 13 development and programming since 2020. Any existing Stage 13 projects in development will be absorbed within WBTV, which continues to be committed to finding new voices and providing opportunities for its richly diverse creative collaborators to tell authentic stories. I want to thank Diana Mogollón for her passionate leadership of Stage 13 and for the groundbreaking series that she and her team produced.

Also, following the conclusion of the current 2022–23 edition of the Warner Bros. Writers’ Workshop in April, we will be closing the Warner Bros. Television Workshop program, which includes both the Writers’ Workshop and the Directors’ Workshop. Both workshops have been instrumental in training the next generation of creative talent in the industry. While we will no longer have these formalized programs in place, we remain committed to developing and mentoring emerging talent and preparing them for careers in television.

As of this writing, all the impact conversations for WBTVG are complete. Out of respect to our colleagues, we will not be distributing a list of those impacted. Your direct managers will provide you with information about roles changing within specific groups. Your P&C partner will be available as well to address any questions or concerns. During this period of transition, please support each other, and be gentle with one another.

These are challenging times in the world at large, and a tumultuous time in our industry. For this kind of change to hit so close to home is incredibly difficult. But my hope is that these changes, made with an eye to a more focused business strategy, will strengthen and stabilize our company, maintain our great creative output, and better position us for continued future success.

Yet today we are losing members of our work family that we love, whose hard work has helped make our success possible, and for that I am truly sorry. I want everyone who is leaving to know that your contributions mattered, and the shows that you helped bring to life will always be part of the Warner Bros. Television Group legacy. Thank you for being part of our story.

With the deepest gratitude,

Channing

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