CNN on Wednesday informed employees of the start of the layoffs, a move expected to affect hundreds of employees at the global news network and mark the deepest cuts at the organization in years.
Chris Licht, who took over as CEO of the network in May, described the cuts in a memo to all staff as a “stomach punch” for the organization, telling staff that “it’s incredibly hard to say goodbye to a member of the CNN team.” , let alone many.”
Employees at the company had braced themselves anxiously for the layoffs since Licht told them last month that “disturbing” changes were on the way.
Licht said the company would notify a “limited number of people,” mostly paid contributors, on Wednesday that they had been fired. He said the company would “notify affected employees” on Thursday. After the cuts were completed, Licht said he would be “following up on more details.”
“It’s going to be a difficult time for everyone,” Licht said frankly in his memo.
CNN declined to say Wednesday exactly how many employees would be affected by the layoffs.
The layoffs come as media companies are hit by brutal economic headwinds that have hit the advertising sector. Licht noted in October, while announcing big cuts, that there were “widespread concerns about the global economic outlook” and that CNN “needs to consider this risk [its] Long-term planning.”
Other media organizations have also cut costs as they work to best position themselves for the stormy economic climate. Disney (DIS) said last week the company needed to be restructured and AMC Networks (AMCX) announced on Tuesday that it would cut 20% of its workforce. Social media companies like Facebook (FB) parent Meta, which also rely on advertising revenue, have also made layoffs in recent months.
CNN, which is still making hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, was spared the cuts that ravaged the industry during the pandemic. Ahead of this year, the last major cuts to the organization came in 2018, when fewer than 50 employees lost their jobs as the company restructured its digital business.
The cuts to the organization also come after CNN’s former parent, WarnerMedia, merged with Discovery earlier this year, creating a media juggernaut with billions of dollars in debt and the need to cut costs across the board. The merger had just been completed in April, when the company announced it would be shutting down streaming service CNN+ a month after it launched
David Zaslav, chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery, the company formed by the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, has promised investors he will find more than $3 billion in savings in the combined organization.
After Licht took charge of CNN, he conducted a months-long review of the business. That review led him to identify changes that should be made, Licht said in October. Some of these changes have already been implemented as CNN has made minor cuts to parts of its business in recent months.
Licht said in his memo for all employees on Wednesday that employees affected by this week’s cuts will be notified “through an in-person meeting or via Zoom, depending on location.”
“At these meetings, you will be given specific information about the notice period or any severance pay that would apply and your expected final date,” Licht said. “I want to clarify that all bonus-eligible individuals will continue to receive their bonuses for 2022, which will be determined by company performance.”
Licht acknowledged that the cuts will “affect both our outgoing and remaining colleagues” and vowed to provide “resources to support” employees.
“Let’s take care of each other this week,” Licht said.