A day after widespread layoffs hit CNN and HLN, Turner Broadcasting Chairman and CEO John Martin explained the cuts at a Time Warner Inc. investor conference.
On his “Turner 2020” plan, Martin emphasized that the idea is “freeing up capital by making our existing operations more efficient.” He made brief mention of the 10 percent across-the-board reduction in staff at Turner, including yesterday’s CNN and HLN cuts. “That’s going to yield significant savings as we move ahead.”
Earlier, Time Warner — Turner’s parent company — CEO Jeff Bewkes promised big things for shareholders. Bewkes vowed to double earnings, delivering close to $6 per share in adjusted earnings by 2016 and $8 per share in adjusted earnings by 2018. His company will do this through an enhanced video content push, a streamlining of divisions, and young, emboldened management. Bewkes did not mention the layoffs.
During the presentation, Martin shared his continued optimism in his cable news properties. “CNN is simply the global gold standard of news organizations,” he said, claiming the network actually has more total reach in the United States than number-one rated network Fox News. “I believe that CNN is essential in breaking news,” he added, then pivoting to how CNN’s original series have become a successful complement to the breaking news brand. By 2015, there will be double the original series on CNN, Martin said.
“On ratings, we have plans in place to stabilize ratings and grow them,” Martin said, adding that Turner is seeing significant increases in video on demand viewing, online, and tablet viewing. Martin said Turner is working hard with Nielsen to get those ratings measurements counted. He also highlighted doubling down on original programming across Turner networks.
Yesterday, Turner Broadcasting layoffs hit CNN and HLN. The signature cut was the first from the talent ranks: HLN host Jane Velez-Mitchell. Mitchell’s self-titled show has been canceled and her entire staff — about a dozen workers — were also cut. Overall, HLN lost about 15 employees.
Other major losses included CNN’s entertainment unit, which was completely eliminated. A senior entertainment producer and two entertainment producers in Los Angeles were let go. Three other L.A. entertainment staffers were moved over to the news division. The New York entertainment production chief was also cut. Additionally, Northeast bureau chief Darius Walker was cut Tuesday. Walker, a beloved figure with CNN for 18 years, was a “gut-wrenching” loss, an insider described.
Later in the conference, HBO CEO Richard Plepler made a surprise announcement for a new steaming service: “In 2015, we will launch a stand-alone, over-the-top HBO service in the United States. We will work with our current partners and we will explore models with new partners. All in, there are 80 billion homes who do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them.”
Tony Maglio contributed to this report.