Writers’ Workshop Axed as Layoffs Hit Warner Bros. Television

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The continued layoffs from Warner Bros. Discovery hit its television division, the studio responsible for shows such as “Ted Lasso,” “Abbott Elementary” and “The Bachelor.”

The group unveiled a reorganization on Tuesday that will lead to the departure of nearly a fifth of the company’s staff, as parent company Warner Bros. Discovery continues to pursue cost cuts from the media mega-merger, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

The television group, overseen by the chairman of Warner Bros. Television, Channing Dungey, is cutting 82 current staff and canceling 43 vacant positions, for a total workforce reduction of 125. The cuts represent 19% of current staff and 26% of the total group. , including open positions.

The cuts affect divisions that include teams responsible for animated, unscripted and scripted shows. Animation and unscripted encompass more than one studio where the roles are consolidated. In the scripted group, Warner Bros. cancels two initiatives: Stage 13, a unit focused on short-form digital broadcasts; and the Warner Bros. program. Television Workshop, which supported screenwriters and directors. Both units emphasize diversity of voices.

Representatives of Warner Bros. declined to comment.

These are difficult times in the world at large and a tumultuous time in our industry,” Dungey said in an email to staff. “For that kind of change, hitting so close to home is incredibly difficult. But I hope these changes, made with a view to a more focused business strategy, will strengthen and stabilize our business, maintain our tremendous creative output, and better position us for continued future success.

It comes after HBO and HBO Max were hit with job cuts in August. Seventy people from the team led by Casey Bloys, head of HBO and HBO Max, were laid off, representing about 14% of his group. Units affected by the cuts included HBO Max’s original reality TV group, which became redundant when HBO Max and the rest of the WarnerMedia companies merged with Discovery Inc., famous for unscripted shows from Food Network, HGTV, TLC and others. Additional units affected included HBO Max’s international co-productions, casting, and the group responsible for acquiring outside content for the service.

More layoffs are expected at Warner Bros. Discovery, which includes the Warner Bros. film and television studio, CNN, TBS, Turner Classic Movies and the various Discovery reality TV channels. The CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav promised Wall Street $3 billion in savings from the merger.

The layoffs also come at a time of significant upheaval for the film and television industry. Media and entertainment companies are under pressure to return to sobriety after a period of massive spending to compete with Netflix for streaming video subscribers. The decline of linear television and the disruption of the theatrical box office also contributed to anxiety in the industry.

Warner Bros. Discovery has revamped its competitive strategy in the media industry’s march into the future of streaming. The company is looking to bolster its streaming efforts while supporting its traditional businesses, including cable channels and theatrical movies. To that end, the company has canceled a number of shows that no longer align with its goals, including live-action family programming, and shelved a $90 million “Batgirl” movie, causing much backlash. angst among filmmakers, showrunners and writers.

Within Warner Bros. Television, among the most notable departures is Brooke Karzen, who is leaving her post as director of Warner Horizon Unscripted Television, the unit responsible for syndicated reality television productions, including “The Bachelor.” The company combines the roles of head of creative development and programming at Warner Horizon and another unscripted unit, Telepictures, which is responsible for series including the recent “Jennifer Hudson Talk Show.” In animated television, Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios will combine development and production roles.

The demise of Stage 13 and the TV Writers’ Workshop is noteworthy because they aimed to develop and amplify emerging talent, including women and people of color. But the focus of Stage 13 — shorthand content, once the novelty in Hollywood — has been subsumed by user-generated videos on TikTok. Existing Stage 13 projects in development will be absorbed by the larger studio.

The televised workshop program will end once the 2022-23 class of writers completes the program in April. Warner Bros. often highlighted the workshop as a way to address diversity issues in the entertainment industry, particularly after the murder of George Floyd sparked calls for greater representation.

But the layoffs that have swept the entertainment industry have led to a culling of initiatives meant to promote inclusion. When Netflix cut roles earlier this year, one of the rounds eliminated roles on social media channels, some of which were intended to highlight diverse programming.

Warner Bros. TV had a strong performance at the recent Emmys, winning four awards for “Ted Lasso” (streaming on Apple TV+), including a comedy series; three for Quinta Brunson’s “Abbott Elementary” (on ABC), including writing a comedy; and one for “The Voice” (on NBC).

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