TCM programming chief to remain following backlash over cuts to classic movie channel

Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg was among the filmmakers who spoke to Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav in response to layoffs at the network.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Warner Bros. Discovery has reversed its plan to lay off the programming chief for Turner Classic Movies and announced moves to help bolster the channel after planned cuts incurred the wrath of film fans with planned cuts.

Charles Tabesh, TCM’s senior vice president of programming who has guided the channel for 25 years, has agreed to stay on, a Warner Bros. Discovery representative said Wednesday. Tabesh was slated to exit along with other top TCM management as part of cost-cutting moves across the Warner Bros. Discovery’s TV channels as the company looks for ways to reduce its debt.

The network will now report directly to Warner Bros. Pictures Group co-heads Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy. The move is an attempt to protect the channel and get the operation more support from the Hollywood film community.


“We have taken steps to ensure that we stay true to the mission of the network — bringing more titles to the air, driving content investment, and preserving and protecting the culture of cinema,” the Warner Bros. Discovery representative said in a statement.

As part of that effort, the company is enlisting the services of three film directors — Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson and Martin Scorsese — who have long championed the channel. The company representative said the trio will influence the curation and scheduling of films for TCM, which has long specialized in presenting and preserving titles that go back to the silent era.

Even with cord-cutting, the WarnerMedia-owned channel remains a favorite for fans and filmmakers.

June 22, 2021

Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav engaged with Spielberg, Anderson and Scorsese when news first emerged about the executive cuts last week. The executive assured them that the staff reductions would not affect the the channel’s mission of providing a wide range of classic films or alter the viewing experience for its avid fans.

While TCM remains profitable and commercial-free, the channel depends on revenue from cable and satellite TV subscriptions, a diminishing financial resource as consumers have moved to streaming platforms for video content. The harsh economic realities have resulted in cuts across the media and entertainment industry.

But TCM has long had a devoted and protective audience. The support and involvement of powerful Hollywood names is meant to help secure its future.

“We have already begun working on ideas with Mike and Pam, both true film enthusiasts who share a passion and reverence for classic cinema that is the hallmark of the TCM community,” the three directors said in a joint statement. “This unique arrangement, initiated by David Zaslav, reflects his commitment to honoring the TCM legacy while also involving us on curation and programming.”


The Warner Bros. Discovery representative said spending on movies for TCM increased 30% last year. The company also plans to maintain the network’s annual film festival held in Hollywood.