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Studios Shed Workers

4 Dec, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

Two big studios announced massive layoffs late last week, joining the growing ranks of companies that are scaling back during this recession.

Viacom Inc. cut about 850 positions, or 7% of the company’s work force, while NBC Universal slashed 500 jobs, amounting to 3% of its work force.

In both cases, home entertainment divisions were affected. At Paramount Home Entertainment, layoffs include VP Chris Saito and several others; at Universal Studios Home Entertainment, the publicity department reportedly lost three of its six publicists.

The Viacom cuts were made “across all divisions of the company,” according to a press release. Paramount, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1, MTV, BET, LOGO and CMT are all Viacom brands. In addition to the cuts, senior level management salary increases were suspended, and programming changes and write-downs were expected to result in as much as $250 million in savings next year.

Viacom saw its earnings down 37% during the third quarter, compared to the same period last year.

“We are moving rapidly to adapt to the challenges presented by the current economic environment,” said Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman. “The changes we are making in our organization and processes will better position Viacom to navigate the economic slowdown and generate sizable efficiencies that will help us to drive our business as the marketplace stabilizes and conditions improve.”

Meanwhile, at NBC Universal, the cuts were also spread across the company. They reportedly included up to 50 cuts at the local media group, 70 cuts at Universal’s film studio, theme parks and distribution; and 30 cuts at NBC News. CNBC lost nearly 80 positions as well as the primetime show “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch.”

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