CNN Announces Layoffs

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In a memo sent to staff Wednesday morning, CNN chief executive Mark Thompson said the network would lay off 100 employees as it pushes to expand its digital programs.

The network said the memo outlined a plan to “build a billion-dollar digital business, experiment with artificial intelligence and overhaul key newsroom structures.”

Per CNN:

The far-reaching measures, which Thompson described to staffers in a memo as a “key milestone in the transformation of CNN,” will result in about 100 employees, or about three percent of the workforce, being laid off. Those employees, Thompson said, will be eligible for severance packages.

Since his appointment last year, Thompson has been candid about the challenges facing CNN, stressing to staffers that swift and dramatic steps are necessary to reorient the television-focused news organization for a digital future.

Like other legacy media companies, CNN has for its four-decade history relied heavily on carriage fees from the traditional cable news bundle, a declining business that has been upended by the advent of streaming services such as Netflix. While the company is still profitable to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars each year, pivoting the network’s business away from the contracting cable industry, which provides the bulk of CNN’s revenue, to position it for the future will be an enormously difficult challenge.

“Turning a great news organization towards the future is not a one-day affair. It happens in stages and over time,” Thompson said in his memo to staff. “Today’s announcements do not answer every question or seek to solve every challenge we face. However, they do represent a significant step forward and I hope you will read about them in that spirit.”

“CNN last had significant layoffs in late 2022 under previous CEO Chris Licht. Those cuts included major reductions at the HLN channel as well as at CNN International, along with a reevaluation of its on-air contributor deals,” The Hollywood Reporter stated.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

While the specifics around CNN’s first subscription offering were not clear from the memo, Thompson did emphasize that rather than the text-based experience it currently leans on, CNN will focus more on video in digital going forward.

“More than anything the CNN brand stands for news brought to you in moving pictures and sound with an onscreen anchor or correspondent acting as a trusted guide,” Thompson wrote. “In the future our digital products need to do a far better job of reflecting CNN’s massive strength in video and anchoring/reporting talent. Video will be at the heart of our future and a re-imagined video experience on every platform — from pure digital to streaming, FAST channels and more — it is essential for CNN’s future.”

To that end, CNN will also be building out its free, ad-supported streaming business with two new offerings, one based on CNN Originals, and another based on CNN en Español.

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