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Rooster Teeth Is Shutting Down After 21 Years

Rooster Teeth is biting the dust after more than two decades.

Parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, after unsuccessful attempts to sell the unprofitable fandom, gaming and comedy entertainment division, is shutting down Rooster Teeth’s operations. RT general manager Jordan Levin announced the shutdown of Austin-based Rooster Teeth at an all-hands meeting Wednesday and in a memo distributed to staff.

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The closure of Rooster Teeth will result in layoffs of its approximately 150 full-time employees and will throw dozens of contractors and content creators out of work as well.

“[I]t’s with a heavy heart I announce that Rooster Teeth is shutting down due to challenges facing digital media resulting from fundamental shifts in consumer behavior and monetization across platforms, advertising, and patronage,” Levin wrote in the memo, obtained by Variety. “Our legacy is not just a collection of content but a history of pixels burned into our screens, minds, and hearts.” (Read the full memo below.)

Warner Bros. Discovery is currently in talks to sell the rights to certain Rooster Teeth catalog content and intellectual property such as the popular anime-style series “RWBY” (pictured above), pioneering sci-fi spoof “Red vs. Blue,” and Michael B. Jordan’s animated mecha series “Gen:Lock.” In addition, WBD is seeking to sell the Roost podcast network, with shows spanning gaming, true crime, fandom, comedy and food, which for the time being will continue to operate.

“Warner Bros. Discovery thanks Rooster Teeth’s groundbreaking creators and partners, and the strong management team, for their many years of success,” the media company said in a statement. “Your passionate and loyal fans are testament to your achievements.”

Rooster Teeth celebrated its 20th birthday last year with the launch of new logos and a new tagline, “Just Playing.” The company had cultivated an ardent fanbase and became an internet-video destination years before the advent of YouTube. Its first viral video came with the 2003 debut of “Red vs. Blue,” an animated comedy series that popularized machinima. The company’s name was derived from dialogue in the original trailer for “Red vs. Blue” — in which the voiceover narrator is dissed by the subtitler as a “cock bite.”

Rooster Teeth was founded in 2003 by Burnie Burns, Matt Hullum, Geoff Ramsey, Jason Saldaña, Gus Sorola and Joel Heyman. After multiple ownership changes, it became part of Warner Bros. Discovery two years ago. In 2019, then-owner WarnerMedia tapped Levin, former CEO of the WB, as general manager of Rooster Teeth as part of a reorg in which Hullum (previously RT’s CEO), Burns and Ramsey took on new creative roles at the company. Burns exited Rooster Teeth in 2020.

Rooster Teeth - Burnie Burns, Matt Hullum
Rooster Teeth cofounders Burnie Burns (l.) and Matt Hullum at an event for “Gen:Lock” at Sundance 2019.

In 2014, Rooster Teeth was bought by Fullscreen, which in turn was bought by Otter Media (a joint venture of AT&T and Chernin Group) before Rooster Teeth became part of WarnerMedia under AT&T’s ownership. In 2022, Discovery closed the acquisition WarnerMedia to form Warner Bros. Discovery.

Rooster Teeth had operated a subscription video-on-demand service from its earliest days, and in 2016 rebranded the service as First. At its peak, Rooster Teeth’s First had about 225,000 paying members at the height of the popularity of “RWBY” and “Gen:Lock,” but has fallen off to about 60,000 today. Warner Bros. Discovery will be communicating with subscribers within the next few weeks about the service’s shutdown.

At one point, Rooster Teeth’s staff had ballooned to a headcount of more than 400. It continually winnowed its ranks over the years in attempts to turn the enterprise profitable to no avail; Rooster Teeth has operated at a loss for the past decade. In addition to its core content biz, Rooster Teeth sold merchandise and had run the RTX in-person fan conventions starting in 2011. Levin recently announced that the 2024 RTX would be canceled — and told staff that the event has never been profitable.

Among the company’s controversies, Rooster Teeth in 2022 issued an open statement of apology for “hateful and hurtful” conduct toward employees over the years, coming after a former staff member detailed her experiences of being harassed, underpaid and marginalized at the company.

Rooster Teeth
Rooster Teeth’s original logo

Read Levin’s March 6 memo to staff about the company’s shutdown:

Dear Rooster Teeth,

Since our founders created and uploaded their first video on the then-called World Wide Web in 2003, Rooster Teeth has been a source of creativity, laughter, and lasting innovation in the wildly volatile media industry.

We’ve read the headlines about industry-wide layoffs and closures, and you’ve heard me give my perspective and updates on the rapidly changing state of media and entertainment during each of our monthly All Hands meetings.

Since inheriting ownership and control of Rooster Teeth from AT&T following its acquisition of TimeWarner, Warner Bros. Discovery continued its investment in our company, content and community. Now however, it’s with a heavy heart I announce that Rooster Teeth is shutting down due to challenges facing digital media resulting from fundamental shifts in consumer behavior and monetization across platforms, advertising, and patronage.

Please note that the Roost team is not currently impacted by this action. The Roost Podcast Network will continue operating and fulfilling its obligations while WBD evaluates outside interest in acquiring this growing asset.

In the coming days and weeks, we will have many questions to answer and the opportunity to work together to implement the best way to wind things down for us and our community. We’re working through what comes next in real time, and we will be as open, direct, and accessible as possible. Thank you all in advance for your patience and support of one another.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate our 21-year contribution to the zeitgeist, advancing creativity and outlasting many of our peers from the early days of online video and digital-first content.

TO A CREATIVE LEGACY

From a garage in Buda, TX, to global screens large and small, our teams of dreamers and doers have introduced and grown what made Rooster Teeth stand out: animation, comedy, and gaming. From new forms of animated comedy with machinima to countless viral memes, including the Immortal Snail (aka Snail Assassin), to a US-born animated series embraced by Japan as anime, and record-breaking (at the time) crowdfunded movies. You’ve accomplished so much and made dreams come true here. You’ve turned original IP into video games, comic books, and VTubers. You’ve directed short videos, mo-cap, and films. You’ve puppeteered, hosted podcasts, and have built a thriving community that spans the globe. Your creativity knows no bounds, and you’ll continue contributing significantly to culture wherever your paths may take you.

TO THOSE WHO COME FIRST

Despite passing through many corporate owners, Rooster Teeth transcended a media business and was a dynamic movement that shaped the bond between communities, creators, and storytelling. Our founders didn’t have a blueprint for a media empire, but they got close to building one alongside a community that fueled its remarkable growth. In its earliest days, RT relied on community sponsorship through time, dollars, and unwavering passion. Volunteers evolved into staff, and the snowball effect grew, resulting in new relationships, marriages, births, and shared experiences that have changed lives.

TO TRAILBLAZING CONTENT CREATION

Our approach to content creation on emerging platforms paved the way for new media models. We inspired generations of creators across streaming, machinima, animation, let’s plays, merch drops, touring, podcasting, and more. Companies like GameStop, YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, and TikTok asked us to collaborate with them in their earliest days because we set a standard for what a digital-first brand could be. We boldly took our content beyond screens and into community-driven experiences.

TO A CHANGING INDUSTRY

Every story reaches its final pages. Rooster Teeth’s closure isn’t merely an end; it reflects broader business dynamics. Monetization shifts, platform algorithms, advertising challenges, and the ebb and flow of patronage — all these converging factors have led to many closures in the industry. While we learn about updates on programming day by day, we will share our plans for shows, franchises, partnerships, and merch soon and share those updates with teams internally and with the community on RoosterTeeth.com

TO OUR FINAL SEASON

Though not intentional, it’s only appropriate that our last season of “Red vs. Blue” coincides with us navigating this closure together. Our legacy is not just a collection of content but a history of pixels burned into our screens, minds, and hearts. Rooster Teeth has made an indelible mark on the media industry, and we should be so proud of the countless ways we pioneered a business connecting creators and content with a dedicated community.

With respect, gratitude, and sincere appreciation,

Jordan Levin

Rooster Teeth - New Logos
Rooster Teeth’s latest logos, introduced in 2023

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