The WB Network Friday cut about 20 out of 280 employees at all levels of the netlet, including network veterans who ran the comedy development, casting and scheduling departments.
The list is said to consist of executive VPs Tracey Pakosta, who two months ago was named co-head of comedy and alternative programming after the departments were combined (she had run comedy) and casting/talent head Kathleen Letterie, as well as Rusty Mintz, senior VP of prime time scheduling for the past 18 months (a function that will be handled for now by WB Entertainment President David Janollari).
A WB spokesman attributed the cuts to a previously announced effort to reduce the 4,500-person workforce on the Burbank lot. Reports have put the reduction target at a minimum of 5%, due to a downturn in DVD and syndication sales.
In an internal memo, WB Chairman Garth Ancier said, “Some months ago, The WB--like every other division of Warner Bros.--was asked to do a top-to-bottom analysis of our business. The objective, in our constantly changing media marketplace, was to attempt to harness the opportunities provided by new technologies and distribution platforms, while managing our costs.
“Each department head at The WB has been involved in this review, and it has been a challenging and often emotional process. The goal was to make The WB as efficient and nimble as possible. The tough decisions we all made over the past few weeks, and executed today, impacted many talented individuals of great dedication to the company. Just as at Warner Bros., certain positions were eliminated. This undertaking was painful and heartbreaking.”
Ancier, who will address a town hall meeting Monday morning with network employees, noted the severance packages offered “to our departing friends and colleagues” reflect Warner Bros.’ corporate values.
WB Kids trimmed more than 10 positions a few weeks ago, but they came as The WB prepares to scrap its weekday afternoon kids programming block in January in favor of adult series reruns. That will take Kids WB from 19 hours per week at its peak (and 14 now) to just five hours.
Warner Bros. Entertainment recently began the layoffs, beginning with a reported 250 to 300 employees. At least 100 were expected to lose their jobs in the company’s international operations, with many more in the domestic TV divisions as well.
The layoffs come as the studio has enjoyed success in terms of TV production—it is the largest supplier to the networks—and at the box office. Warner Bros. is also in the initial stages of rolling out the off-network sitcom Two and a Half Men, which it is pitching to stations as the first A-list comedy to enter syndication in years. It hopes to replicate the success of the few top-tier sitcoms, such as Seinfeld, which have reaped billions of dollars in the off-net market.