WarnerMedia Sets Up $100 Million Relief Fund for Laid Off Production Workers

Meanwhile, the launch of HBO Max is still on target for May, John Stankey says in internal memo

WarnerMedia has pledged to give $100 million in relief to workers affected by production shutdowns forced by the coronavirus pandemic, CEO John Stankey said in an internal memo on Friday.

“We have paused many productions for the health and safety of employees, cast, crew and community. We are stepping up with a commitment of more than $100 million to assist team members of those productions during this time,” Stankey said. Netflix made an equally-large pledge last week.

Additionally, Stankey said that the upcoming launch of its HBO Max streaming service will not be affected by the shutdowns and is still on track to debut in May. “Our tech teams have been operating under very unique circumstances and have adapted quickly to a new way of working,” Stankey wrote. “And the marketing team has had to recast plans to reach potential subscribers in innovative ways.”

Stankey added that WarnerMedia’s advertising business is taking a hit, largely due to the lack of NCAA March Madness on its Turner networks, which was supposed to begin last week. Last year’s tournament alone garnered more than $900 million in ad revenue to Turner and CBS, which was split evenly.

“Advertising will face headwinds in no small part due to the cancellation of NCAA March Madness and the suspension of the NBA season,” he said. “As a result, our ad sales teams have been collaborating with Xandr and our clients to develop innovative solutions that provide new value to brands across our portfolio, including our linear networks where we’ve seen substantial increases in ratings as more people are working from and staying at home.”

On the other side, HBO has seen a massive increase in its streaming viewership while CNN’s ratings have spiked by more than 167% during primetime since March 9.

Variety first reported on the relief fund by WarnerMedia.