Massive layoffs: Will NBC shows even be a thing anymore?
NBCUniversal began massive layoffs Tuesday August 4, 2020, which will reportedly impact up to ten percent of the 35,000 team members across the country as part of the company’s larger restructuring of the entertainment division, and an internal investigation into toxic workplace allegations.
NBCUniversal is not the only entertainment company to be hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Companies including The Walt Disney Company & Fox Corp. have laid people off and, according to a Wall Street Journal report, AT&T’s WarnerMedia is expected to start making job cuts next week.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been layoffs & furloughs at dozens of media including BuzzFeed, Bustle Digital Group, Conde Nast, ViacomCBS, Vox Media, & Vice.
The New York-based broadcaster, home to This Is Us & The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, is initiating broad–based layoffs that will hit its network employees especially hard, sources said. The scale of the NBC layoffs could not yet be determined, but insiders described the job cuts as “sweeping”and “significant”.
NBCUniversal owns cable news networks MSNBC, NBC News, CNBC, as well as Universal Pictures film studio & Universal Studios theme park. The company has been struggling to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Like other media companies, NBCUniversal was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and revenue dropped to $6.1 billion in the second quarter, a twenty–five percent decrease from the same time last year, as theme parks closed, movie releases were put on hold, and television advertising fell.
NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell confirmed the cuts in parent company Comcast’s earnings call last week, noting that the cuts are part of the restructuring plan, which will “shift resources from linear to streaming”.
NBCUniversal launched its ad-supported streaming service, Peacock, in April 2020 and has garnered about 10 million sign-ups as of the earnings call, which Shell said is “better than expectations”, while noting “it’s too early to convert” the signup number to monthly active accounts. Shell put Mark Lazarus in charge of NBCUniversal Television & Streaming, the new division that combines television & streaming, in May 2020.
The layoff news comes less than a week after NBCUniversal said it would investigate toxic workplace allegations at NBC Entertainment which surfaced in a Hollywood Reporter article last week, including that chairman Paul Telegdy engaged in racist, sexist, and homophobic behavior. Telegdy has denied the allegations.
A number of NBC viewing favorites have already felt the effects of the layoffs. The Today Show’s third hour took a direct hit. Following the exit of producer Jackie Levin, who took a buyout, remaining staff are reporting to Libby Leist, the executive producer of the first two hours of Today. Meanwhile, the company has also axed E! News – currently hosted by Lilliana Vazquez – after twenty-nine years on the air.
Spiraling sports reports
NBC Sports is also taking a hard hit from a pair of announcements of longtime writers that they are no longer with the company. Craig Calcaterra & Rob Dauster, who both spent about a decade writing Hardball Talk & College Basketball Talk, respectively, announced the news today. Also laid off was Sara Perlman host of The Daily Line, as was sports journalist Bill Baer.
Spanish language slashes
NBCUniversal’s Telemundo network has also cut award-winning journalist Maria Celeste Arrarás, well known to Spanish-language viewers. “With deep sadness, I want to inform you that [Tuesday] was my last day with Al Rojo Vivo and on the Telemundo screen,” she wrote in an Instagram post the day after the layoffs.
“This morning I was informed by the company that they have decided to take the program in a different direction and because of changes due to the pandemic, I will no longer be part of the show,” Arrarás said.
Telemundo also laid off Rashel Diáz, an anchor for its Miami-based network morning show, Un Nuevo Dia. Anchors at local NBC TV stations around the country also were cut, including Ana Patricia Candiani, a leading anchor at KVEA–TV Channel 52 in Los Angeles. Candiani had been with the station for nearly ten years.
Layoffs also impacted local news broadcasting and all three NBC broadcast properties in Chicago, reports Robert Feder who writes a Chicago media blog at robertfeder.com. The company would not confirm the number of employees affected, but sources said seven employees were cut today at NBC–owned WMAQ–Channel 5 & Telemundo WSNS–Channel 44, mostly in technical areas.
More than a dozen were believed to have been fired from numerous departments at NBC Sports Chicago, which is in a separate division of the company.