Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Report: Layoffs Coming In January To NBCU

NBCUniversal is the latest major media corporation to plan layoffs, according to The Insider citing two company insiders and a third person closely familiar with plans.

The Comcast-owned company is expected to cut staff in January. The axe will fall mainly in ad sales, marketing, and back-end functions at the traditional broadcast and cable business units, but will come division by division, two people said. Top executives have been given a budget target to hit rather than a headcount number, according to two sources, making it hard to predict how many people will be affected by the mandate. 

A spokesman for NBCU's ad division told Insider, "This is all speculation, as our budget process is still ongoing and nothing has been finalized." 

NBC is exploring a plan to give back an hour of primetime to its local affiliates as part of a cost reduction plan. Comcast lost 561,000 video subscribers in the last quarter while streaming service Peacock surpassed 15 million paying subscribers. Comcast suffered subscription losses in part due to Hurricane Ian damage in Florida.

The company is looking for $1 billion in cuts across the TV networks, according to a Bloomberg report. Speaking in a CNBC interview last month, NBCU CEO Jeff Shell acknowledged huge changes in how people watch programming, and revealed that Peacock has 30 million active accounts, and of those, 15 million are paid customers. 

The headcount reductions follow dramatic layoffs in recent months by Warner Bros. Discovery. After hundreds of layoffs earlier this year, CNN is set to eliminate more staff starting early December, while 70 people were cut in November at Warner Bros. Sports. Cuts have already happened at Warners' entertainment units in Los Angeles as the company pursues $3.5 billion in synergies. 

Paramount Global also conducted layoffs last week, mainly in ad sales in New York and Los Angeles. Disney is expected to come next, as Bob Iger returns to the CEO chair just a week after former CEO Bob Chapek warned of a hiring freeze, cost cuts, and potential layoffs. Anxieties about the cost of debt, a drop in ad spending, and companies' own forecasts of profitability for streaming have created a budget crunch.  

NBCUniversal was the first major media firm to conduct a corporate restructure of its business back in 2020. More recently has been looking for reductions in headcount by offering generous severance packages to executives in their mid-50s and above, or people with more than 10 years' tenure. The packages are voluntary. 

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