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Buyouts Coming for 500 Staffers at Turner

Some 500 senior Turner Broadcasting staffers will be offered buyouts Tuesday.

The buyouts are part of the Time Warner unit's efforts to cut costs as part of new CEO John Martin's Turner 2020 plan aimed at cutting costs and align spending with company priorities.

Turner officials had no comment, but sources said that the voluntary layoffs will be offered throughout Turner, including its news networks CNN and HLN as well as its entertainment networks, including TNT and TBS. The company is not aiming at a specific headcount but rather is seeking to hit an expense number that includes personnel and other costs.

The buyout plan is for U.S. employees only because of overseas labor laws. It was not clear whether layoffs would follow the buyout if too few employees opt to take what sources describe as an enhanced version of the company's normal severance package.

The buyouts come weeks after Time Warner rejected an $85 billion buyout bid by 21st Century Fox's Rupert Murdoch. In rebuffing Murdoch, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said the company's current strategy would lead to greater earnings growth.

Turner has also been under pressure with several of its networks reporting lower ratings and soft ad revenue growth. A number of senior Turner executives have left the company since the tail end of last year, including CEO Phil Kent, Entertainment Networks President Steve Koonin, Kids president Stu Synder, chief research officer Jack Wakshlag and CNN ad sales chief Greg D'Alba.

The potential for layoffs at Turner was first raised in a memo Martin sent to staff in June outlining his Turner 2020 plan.

"We're increasing investments in programming and content to keep our audiences engaged and bring new viewers to our brands. We'll also spend on marketing, branding and promotion to break through the clutter," Martin's memo said. "We've been shifting resources already and I would ask that you think carefully about how and where to get the greatest return on the assets you control. This may mean staff changes. In fact, I'll be surprised if it doesn't."