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October 19th, 2014
01:27 PM ET

"Reshaping" at major media companies

This week CNN laid off about 150 employees. And HBO, which like CNN is owned by Time Warner, announced a plan to sell subscriptions via the Internet.

Brian Stelter explains how the two media stories are connected in this end-of-the-show essay.

Here's the text:

Finally this morning, I want to tell you about two seemingly unrelated stories and what they tell us about the future of media.

Here was my headline about the first one, "Turner to Reduces Head Count by Ten Percent."

Turner includes channels like TNT, TBS and this one, CNN. And this week was a very painful week here. There were about 150 layoffs, spread across CNN and our sister channel HLN and CNN.com.

Several shows will be going away, including "Unguarded" on Fridays, "CNNMoney" on Saturdays and Jane Velez-Mitchell's talk show on HLN. Another 130 people are leaving voluntarily through buyouts, for a total of about 8 percent of CNN's 3,500 employees.

Why? The answers are numerous, but CNN's parent company Time Warner has been under Wall Street pressure to pump up its stock price, especially Time Warner rejected a lucrative bid from Rupert Murdoch's over the summer.

The same day people were being laid off here, Time Warner executives were telling investors about a long-term plan for the company, one that involves more dramas, more comedies and more documentaries across all the channels to keep people watching. In order to pay for those, Time Warner needs to keep employee costs down. That's what the executives told investors.

But that doesn't stop the whispering around here that it may be Time Warner is slimming down CNN and Turner to prepare it for a sale to Murdoch or to someone else.

But the biggest headline from Time Warner's investors event was this one, actually, "HBO to Sell Subscriptions via the Internet."

Right now, you can watch HBO online but only if you subscribe through a cable or satellite company. You can't sign up online, but that's going to change starting next year. HBO wants to make sure it can reach the growing number of people who want to stream TV the new way, not just watch it the old-fashioned way.

And CBS does, too. It announced a new streaming service one day after HBO.

Now, right now, these aren't really announcements about replacing cable, but they could some day. And that's the important context for whenever you hear about cutbacks at a media company.

It is unfortunately happening all over the place. Conde Nast, the publisher of Vogue and Wired, is laying off 70 to 80 people this fall. My former employer the New York Times is cutting 100 from the newsroom.

And yet they, like CNN, have been hiring people, too, lots of people, mainly for online jobs. That's for new apps, for new web sites, for new ventures.

Now, there is some overall shrinking going on. But the better word for what's happening in media today is "reshaping." Through layoffs, through cuts, through new investments, "reshaping" for the digital future that really feels more like the digital present. It's already here.

None of this context makes it any easier to say good-bye to our colleagues. In fact, it may make it even harder, because the fact of media, THE fact of media in 2014, is that reshaping of all kinds is going to continue.


Filed under: Reliable Sources
soundoff (7 Responses)
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  2. Sharon K. Smith

    I just discovered two nights ago that Turner Broadcasting has removed CNN from Dish Net cable TV. I was an avid CNN viewer and enjoyed most of its programming. I called Dish to find our what happened and couldn't really "understand" what they said. I would love to find out what is going on and why.

    October 31, 2014 at 12:11 pm | Reply
  3. Thomas

    In the past CNN gave the impression that audience numbers was not the main factor in their programming decisions. With the latest cuts it is clear that audience numbers are now the only thing that matters. To achieve the largest numbers one has to go towards what the great majority will watch. Therefore Anthony Broudin travel shows will now be promoted over news commentary and hard news programs..

    It is sad what is happening to CNN and there is not much the average fan can do.

    October 20, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  4. carl43

    No one likes to see anyone loose their job so I don't want to seem insensitive. I will say though that somehow the news industry has gotten bloated just like an investment bubble. Ever little news story is made to sound like breaking news and one pundit after another is pranced out to offer all kinds of insights and explanations without seeing any real evidence or information. I watch the news during the day and one host after another goes over the same information–word for word with nothing new to add. There are just too many news programs with no value added -and that is just for one station–then add all the stations with the same stuff and you have too many people chasing the same stories. Same is with lawyers–too many chasing the same pot of money and people to sue.

    October 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Reply
  5. getalife

    Just another rw failure like fox news. Nobody cares if cnn dies.

    October 19, 2014 at 10:51 pm | Reply
    • carl43

      fox news is a bit different-it is the propaganda arm of the GOP–as such iy doesn't need to turn a profit–it will be subsidized by the big money behind the GOP–nothing wrong with that America is a free place and if people want to spend a ton of money to get their message out to the people so be it but lets not confuse Fox news with a real news station.

      October 20, 2014 at 6:24 pm | Reply
      • david

        Wow, put down the lib kool aid and tell me you honestly believe that tripe. News is so warped to the left that any oulet that dares to give a voice to conservatives is put down as "propoganda". Libs denigrate fox since the can't actually argue that socialist policies ever work.

        October 20, 2014 at 9:37 pm |

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