Around 20 layoffs expected at GCN as founder buys back company

Staff had redundancy meetings scheduled the same morning the sale of the company was announced.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 13.06.2024 Photography by
GCN/Warner Bros. Discovery
More from Jonny +

Around 20 employees are reportedly facing redundancy at GCN as the company’s founder, Simon Wear, has bought back a majority stake in the brand from Warner Bros. Discovery.

Warner Bros. Discovery announced the sale of GCN and its immediate parent company, Play Sports Network, on Wednesday morning; the buyers are Wear and Mia Walter, CEO of Play Sports Network. Nearly two dozen employees were notified their jobs were at risk.

It’s understood the likely layoffs will mostly focus on those on the website’s editorial and development teams, with editorial staff told not to start any new work.

The press release announcing the sale from Warner Bros. Discovery stated that under its new owners, Play Sports Network would “continue to operate its cycling brands delivering digital content across YouTube, its websites and other social platforms.” It’s currently unknown what content will be delivered via the company’s website after the expected layoffs.

Play Sports Network communicated to employees the reason behind the layoffs was a financial decision, with editorial staff told last week their Tour de France travel plans had been cancelled.

At the end of 2023, Warner Bros. Discovery shut down the popular GCN+ streaming service and app and moved live racing television rights solely to Eurosport, Discovery+ and Max, which it also owns. Its Play Sports Network division retained the GCN YouTube channel, website and social media accounts.

We reported last September that Play Sports Network was up for sale, with Wear in the running to buy back the company he founded. Wear sold an initial stake in his company to Discovery in 2017 before Discovery became a majority shareholder in 2019 and then purchased the remainder of PSN in 2021 in a deal that valued the company at roughly £70 million. Wear left his day-to-day role in early 2023 but remained on the board. In this most recent sale back to Wear and Walter, Warner Bros. Discovery has retained a minority stake.

What form GCN may take under its new owners is not clear, but as race coverage rights remain with Warner Bros. Discovery, it is not expected PSN will bring back the GCN+ app. Whether this buy-back will mean its catalog of original video content, such as documentaries, will see the light of day again is currently unknown.

If the GCN website were to shutter entirely following the expected layoffs, all that would remain of the once-sprawling Global Cycling Network are the various YouTube channels, with the main GCN channel boasting 3.25 million subscribers and generating on average 12 million views a month across its 7,000+ videos. It’s understood that while Warner Bros. Discovery were able and willing to fund the website, which only fully launched in 2023, it was understandably not yet financially self-sufficient.

There is no expected change for Warner Bros. Discovery’s own live racing coverage. The company said it will continue to “maintain its focus on world-class live cycling coverage through Eurosport on linear television and its streaming services Max and Discovery+, offering the widest range of men’s and women’s races anywhere, including more than 1,000 cycling broadcasts per year.”

Escape Collective reached out to Wear for comment about the possible layoffs, but at the time of publication we have not heard back.

Our thoughts are with those at GCN facing potential layoffs, many of whom we know personally.

What did you think of this story?