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DAN TURNER

Staff Reporter

The new, lean era that Ted Turner is bringing to Time Warner Inc. is descending on Burbank.

Film and TV studio Warner Bros., which has had a reputation for lavish spending despite its parent company's heavy debt load, is slashing annual budgets of some of its operating units by as much as 10 percent, according to a source inside the studio.

The source said that most of the cuts are expected to come through operating efficiencies rather than layoffs.

Warner Bros. spokeswoman Barbara Brogliatti acknowledged that certain budget cuts are being made, but noted that there would be no large-scale layoffs. She generally downplayed the significance of the cuts.

"One particular department may in fact have been asked to (make the 10-percent cut), but it doesn't mean everyone has," she said. "There is no overall company mandate to do that which doesn't mean we're not under an operating efficiency review. We are, it's that time of year."

This year's production slate at the studio will be unaffected by any cuts, she added. The new cost-cutting efforts are mainly focused on identifying unnecessary expenses.

"People automatically associate this kind of thing with bodies (i.e. staff cuts), but it doesn't necessarily work that way in production," Brogliatti said. "There are layoffs every day here; I mean, it's a huge company. But nothing out of the ordinary is happening."

All divisions of Time Warner are under a companywide mandate to cut operating expenses from 3 to 5 percent over the next three years, as part of an effort to shore up its lagging stock price and pay down debt generated with its October 1996 acquisition of Turner Broadcasting System Inc.

"We have a corporation-wide cost management program going on right now, and it focuses on non-personnel-related staff cuts," said Time Warner spokesman Ed Adler. The record division layoffs were individual moves by the labels themselves and not part of a corporate mandate, he added.

Time Warner is laboring under a $17.5 billion debt load following its purchase of Turner Broadcasting, whose former chief Ted Turner now Time Warner's vice chairman and largest stockholder is said to be on a crusade to cut costs at the newly combined company.

Executive perks are said to be of particular concern to Turner, who directed the company to hire a management consulting firm last fall to probe for unnecessary expenses.

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