40 Laid Off at AXS TV After Mark Cuban Sells Controlling Stake to Anthem Sports, Steve Harvey (Exclusive)

Dallas, Denver and Los Angeles offices experience staff reductions

Last Updated: September 11, 2019 @ 11:51 AM

Forty people have been let go from AXS TV following Mark Cuban’s sale of his majority stake in the cable network and the channel HDNet Movies to Steve Harvey and Anthem Sports & Entertainment on Monday, two individuals close to the situation tell TheWrap exclusively.

The cuts came about quickly, with terminations occurring within hours of Cuban’s sell-off being announced yesterday, four different people said. One of our sources added that there wasn’t even an opportunity for the consultants to try to negotiate a new contract.

Another person classified the layoffs as “deep cuts” that disproportionately impacted the fight and concert teams. The person told us that some remaining staffers in the Los Angeles office are sitting around waiting for marching orders — or at least for a new boss. AXS’ Dallas and Denver offices were hit even harder than L.A.

Bob Gold from Bob Gold & Associates, a spokesman for new owner Anthem, disputed the “deep cuts” classification, telling TheWrap that AXS had slightly more than 100 employees before the cuts. Anthem had been a bit larger — the combined company now has 210 employees.

One source who is still with AXS/Anthem tells TheWrap they expect an internal conference call on Wednesday to give information and share direction with the remaining employees. Up until this point, it has been “radio silence,” the person told us, echoing the feeling of confusion from the Staples Center office.

The terminations at AXS came about because of “redundancies” created by Cuban’s sale to Anthem and Harvey — which has been in the works for more than six months — with “almost all senior AXS executives retained,” according to Gold.

Gold said the L.A. office is important to Anthem because of the music and sports teams, with Denver being valuable due to the leadership that is based there. He also said it’s a possibility the contractors who were laid off after the deal could be hired back.

“We’re incredibly grateful for everyone’s contributions and excited about the company moving forward,” Gold said.

Adam Swift, who worked as legal counsel at AXS and an executive producer for its “New Japan Pro Wrestling,” announced his termination on Twitter on Tuesday, writing: “This is my last week at AXS TV after 11 amazing years. Proud of all that we accomplished, blessed to have worked with so many wonderful people, and excited for the next adventure.”

Remaining representatives for AXS did not respond to TheWrap’s requests for comment on this story. We also attempted to reach Cuban directly, but did not immediately hear back.

As TheWrap previously reported, Anthem will take over operational control of both AXS TV and HDNet Movies. Cuban and AEG will continue to participate as equity partners and AEG Global Partnerships, AEG’s advertising and sponsorship sales unit, will continue to support the channels in conjunction with Anthem’s sales team. AXS TV and HDNet Movies will keep operating from their existing facilities in Denver and Los Angeles, according to Anthem.

Along with a content development deal, Harvey’s company, Steve Harvey Global, will have a seat on the board of directors of Anthem.

“My team and I see great opportunity in Anthem,” Harvey said in a statement Monday. “They have incredible shows, experiential entertainment, and a huge reach. We look forward to collaborating with Anthem on content development that will surprise and delight this newly expanded audience.”

Anthem was founded in 2011 and operates a slew of linear and digital channels in the U.S. and Canada centered around wrestling, boxing, hunting and fishing and gaming.

“We are very excited to add these two successful channels to our portfolio,” Anthem CEO Leonard Asper said after the deal was announced. “Anthem was founded with a mission to deliver compelling, targeted content and experiences to passionate fans globally on the platform of their choice. The music, sports and entertainment communities served by these channels are a natural extension and perfect complement to our existing properties. The addition of AXS TV and HDNet Movies will allow for increased content ownership, digital expansion and even more compelling programming for consumers and our distribution partners.”

Cuban launched HDNet in 2001, a time when most linear TV networks were still airing in standard definition formats. The channel was re-launched in 2012 as AXS TV with the backing of AEG, Ryan Seacrest Media and CAA.

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