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More Warner Bros. Discovery Layoffs as Warner Bros. Television Group Cuts 125 Jobs

As belt-tightening continues at Warner Bros. Discovery, WB's TV Group suffers layoffs, closes workshops, and shutters studio Stage 13.

Channing Dungey

Warner Bros. Television Group boss Channing Dungey

Getty

Warner Bros. Television Group has eliminated 125 jobs, IndieWire has learned. That tally includes 82 employees laid off across the scripted, unscripted, and animation divisions as well as 43 open positions that will go unfilled.

The 125 jobs represent a loss of 26 percent of the current and vacant positions at the company. The layoffs alone comprise 19 percent of the current WBTV workforce.

Parent corporation Warner Bros. Discovery has been cutting costs in all sorts of ways, including previous rounds of layoffs and the scrubbing of completed films and television series. The most notable example of the content write offs came when David Zaslav chose to wholly delete “Batgirl” ahead of its release. Zaslav and his consigliere CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels have tasked themselves with finding $3 billion in cost savings.

Tuesday was Warner Bros. TV’s turn to take one for the team (that team being the shareholders). Among those laid off today were both newer employees and others with more than a decade of service to Warner Bros. Television Group, we’re told. The highest-profile executive to leave is Brooke Karzen, head of Warner Horizon Unscripted Television; the “Bachelor”-universe boss has been with the company since 2000. Bridgette Theriault and Dan Sacks will now lead Warner Horizon.

Mike Darnell will continue to oversee Warner Bros. Television Group’s unscripted studios: Warner Horizon, Telepictures, and Shed Media. David McGuire will continue to lead Telepictures; Lisa Shannon and Dan Peirson will continue to run Shed Media. Creative development and programming teams at Warner Horizon and Telepictures are being combined, although their labels will remain separate to continue the separation of union (Warner Horizon) and non-union (Telepictures) programming. The physical production, business affairs, and finance teams for unscripted programming were already combined in a 2020 reorg.

In addition to “The Bachelor” and its many spinoffs, Warner Horizon produces “The Voice” for NBC. Telepictures recently launched Jennifer Hudson’s syndicated daytime talk show. Shed Media is probably best known for “The Real Housewives of New York.”

Brett Paul will continue to run Warner Bros. TV’s scripted side, which is not seeing a major structural change but will close two key initiatives: Stage 13 and the Warner Bros. Television Workshop. Founded in 2017, the Stage 13 studio was formed to create original short-form programming for digital platforms, which Warner Bros. believed could be the future of entertainment content. They were sort of right — but executives had missed the part where it would all be user-generated and free on platforms like Tik Tok. Stage 13, which produced “Two Sentence Horror Stories” for The CW, has a few projects still in development; those will shift to the scripted group.

Batgirl, Leslie Grace

Leslie Grace starred in unreleased Warner Bros. movie “Batgirl”

Warner Bros.

The Warner Bros. Television Workshop for emerging writers and directors will wrap with the 2022-23 class. The workshops were key to discovering and cultivating talent from underrepresented groups, a mission the studios and leadership say it plans to continue.

Finally, Sam Register will continue to oversee animation from Warner Bros. Animation, Cartoon Network Studios, and Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe. Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios will combine their development and main production teams. Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe will continue operating largely on its own due to geography and the varying business practices in the different locations. Cartoon Network Studios does the original artist-driven animation; Warner Bros. Animation is the Bugs Bunny and other IP.

Warner Bros. Television Group chief Channing Dungey informed her staff of the layoffs and restructuring today. IndieWire has obtained the email she sent to staff, below.

Team,

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,

Channing

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