CNN, HLN Layoffs: Jane Velez-Mitchell Out, Entertainment Unit Disbanded

Insiders tell TheWrap more talent cuts expected as the networks undergo restructuring

Turner Broadcasting layoffs hit CNN and HLN on Tuesday, with HLN host Jane Velez-Mitchell as the first major talent casualty, multiple individuals with knowledge of the situation confirmed to TheWrap. Mitchell’s self-titled show has been canceled and her entire staff — about a dozen workers — are also out. All told, HLN lost about 15 employees Tuesday.

Among other major losses, CNN’s entertainment unit — which covers red carpet events and awards shows on both coasts — is being completely disbanded, insiders confirmed. A senior entertainment producer and two entertainment producers in Los Angeles were let go. Three other L.A. entertainment staffers were transferred to the news division. The producer who runs CNN Entertainment in New York City is also out. Additionally, Northeast bureau chief Darius Walker was cut Tuesday. Walker had been with CNN for 18 years, and an insider described his exit as a “gut-wrenching” loss.

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CNN also cut Christiane Amanpour’s entire four-person New York staff, an individual told TheWrap. Amanpour, the cable news channel’s chief international correspondent and anchor of a nightly foreign affairs program, will still produce international news segments for CNN. She is based out of London, where she also maintains staff.

These latest layoffs follow widespread CNN cuts last Wednesday in Atlanta that took place at the CNN Center and the Turner Broadcasting Techwood Campus. In that round of job losses, most of the affected employees were believed to be from the Sales Departments at CNN and HLN, as well as some workers from TNT.

Also read: CNN, HLN Staffers Among Turner Layoffs Hitting Atlanta

When asked to comment, a CNN spokesperson would only tell TheWrap, “The changes this week are difficult yet necessary. Out of respect for our colleagues directly impacted, we won’t be commenting on specific people or programs.”

CNN Entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, “I am very very VERY sad.” As TheWrap exclusively reported in September, Turner is leaving to join “Entertainment Tonight.”

For Velez-Mitchell, her HLN show has been struggling. It was down fairly hefty double digits in both total viewers and the key 25-54 news demo, when comparing 2014’s third quarter with 2013’s — it suffered a loss of 31 percent in total viewers and 30 percent in the key demo. For the most-recent full quarter, the program averaged just 227,000 in total viewers and fewer than 100,000 in the demo.

Turner Broadcasting plans to lay off 1,475 employees over the next two weeks — a 10 percent reduction in staff. Approximately 900 employees from all of Turner in Atlanta will be let go, while CNN Worldwide will lose a total of 170.

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The job cuts followed voluntary buyouts that were offered to 550 employees division-wide in August. As TheWrap previously reported, if not enough staffers accepted the voluntary buyouts, layoffs were to follow. About 130 CNN Worldwide employees elected to take a buyout.

Severance pay will be offered to the employees, who will come from 18 global locations. The job cuts will come from all levels across the company’s news, entertainment, kids, young adult and sports networks and business, as well as corporate functions, the company said earlier in a press release.

Also read: HLN Entertainment Host A.J. Hammer Exits Network

On Tuesday CNN’s production services unit was disbanded, and major cuts were made in the viewer services department, insiders said. Meanwhile, staffers in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s medical unit were told they would have to reapply for their jobs.

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