Warner Bros. Television Group handed out pink slips to 82 staffers on Tuesday, representing 19% of the studio’s workforce, across its scripted, unscripted and animation divisions. Additionally, it has opted not to fill 43 additional vacant positions — making for a total elimination of 125 jobs (or 26% of an approximately 481 headcount).
Warner Bros. TV Group declined comment, but it’s understood that chairman Channing Dungey detailed to staff a series of changes that included various levels of consolidation in unscripted and animation. Also, as reported Tuesday afternoon, the company has closed Stage 13, a shingle focused on diverse shortform programming (leading to the exit of Stage 13 head Diana Mogollón), and will end the Warner Bros. Television Workshop, which had existed for decades as a training ground for new creative talent in both writing and directing.
The layoffs were expected as the latest cost cutting move inside Warner Bros. Discovery, which merged in April and since then has attempted to make good on its mission to cut costs by $3 billion. It also comes just two years after a previous round of layoffs, under the WarnerMedia banner, had already cut into Warner Bros.’ workforce by at least 650 people.
More recently, in August, WBD eliminated around 70 jobs, or 14% of the workforce, from HBO and HBO Max, as the company prepares to merge HBO Max and Discovery+ into one streamer. Unscripted programming, scripted children’s and family fare, casting, international and acquisitions were hardest hit. And in September, WBD let go of 100 employees as part of the downsizing of the company’s ad sales departments.
As outlined on Tuesday, Dungey’s direct reports remain, as do the umbrella divisions that fall under the Warner Bros. TV Group banner — but more consolidation has occurred.
In the non-fiction space, Mike Darnell remains as president of Warner Bros. Unscripted Television and continues to report to Dungey; Warner Horizon Unscripted Television, Telepictures and Shed Media will continue as separate shingles under Darnell’s domain.
But with the announcement Monday that Warner Horizon Unscripted TV head Brooke Karzen was departing, some creative development and programming oversight will now be combined between Warner Horizon and Telepictures. (Warner Horizon productions fall under union work, while Telepictures is generally not under union rules.) With Karzen’s exit, Bridgette Theriault and Dan Sacks will now lead Warner Horizon, while David McGuire continues to lead Telepictures, and Lisa Shannon and Dan Peirson continue to run Shed Media.
Physical production, business affairs, and finance teams for unscripted programming had already been consolidated between Warner Horizon, Telepictures and Shed Media following the 2020 cuts.
With the Warner Bros. Discovery merger, Shed Media is expected to develop and produce more content for the Discovery networks, while overall Warner Bros.’ unscripted units will continue to sell to external platforms and create formats for international as well.
In animation, Sam Register will continue to oversee Warner Bros. Animation, Cartoon Network Studios and Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe. Those three labels will continue to exist, but development and main production teams for Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios will now merge (while Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe will maintain a separate team). The three shingles had already shared the same current programming, casting, legal/business affairs and artist relations teams.
Under the new setup, a 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.
Despite the changes, output will remain the same as Cartoon Network Studios continues to produce original animated fare for internal outlets including Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and HBO Max. And with HBO Max moving away from adult animation, there will be a renewed push for producing for third-party networks and outside platforms as well. Warner Bros. Animation focuses on more pre-existing characters and IP.
Also under Dungey’s direct report, Warner Bros. TV president Brett Paul continues on the scripted side with no major structural changes beyond the closure of Stage 13 (which comes as the company decides to no longer invest in short-form production). The biggest change to scripted came back in 2020, when Warner Bros. TV and Warner Horizon Scripted TV were merged.
Meanwhile, as broadcasters pull back on their number of series and pilots — as it appears more likely that networks may reduce their primetime hours, and The CW shifts its focus under new ownership — Warner Bros. TV will likely reduce its roster in terms of writer deals as well.
Nonetheless, Warner Bros. TV is still aiming to be a major supplier of programming, first for its own sister platforms (the studio has 15 scripted and unscripted series currently with HBO Max, plus more than 20 animated shows) in addition to outside entities. Warner Bros. recently scored Emmys for “Ted Lasso,” which it produces for Apple TV+, and “Abbott Elementary,” which it produces for ABC. Warner Bros.’ scripted, unscripted and animated divisions count more than 120 shows in production for more than 20 different platforms.
Here is the memo distributed to staffers this afternoon by Dungey:
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 Matzkin maintains 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,