By Joe Flint 

NBCUniversal has begun making staff cuts across its entertainment portfolio including its sports and cable channels, broadcast networks, movie studio and theme parks, according to people familiar with the matter.

The layoffs have been anticipated for several months and are primarily tied to the effect the coronavirus has had on many of the Comcast Corp. unit's operations. Revenue at NBCU declined 25% to $6.1 billion in the second quarter, a result of theme park closures, the postponement of movie releases and advertising drops at its TV properties.

NBCUniversal has 35,000 full-time employees. The reductions are expected to be held to less than 10% of staff, a person close to the matter said.

Other entertainment companies including Walt Disney Co. and Fox Corp. have also been in cost-cutting mode as the coronavirus has pummeled their bottom lines. AT&T Inc.'s WarnerMedia is expected to begin staff reductions as early as next week, people close to that company said. WarnerMedia is the parent of HBO, Warner Bros. and several cable networks including CNN and TNT.

Fox Corp. and Wall Street Journal parent News Corp share common ownership.

Most production of movies and television shows continues to be shut down, particularly in Los Angeles. When production does resume, costs are expected to rise as a result of testing and other safety protocols related to the virus.

The NBCUniversal layoffs come at the same time the company is overhauling its entertainment operations under new Chief Executive Jeff Shell. On last week's Comcast earnings call, Mr. Shell said the unit is "finalizing a new structure that will demonstrate the unique way we intend to manage this business going forward."

The new structure is expected to combine much of NBCU's content business. Mr. Shell wants to centralize programming into a hub rather than each individual platform having its own content unit. The new approach will likely lead to leadership shake-ups across the company's West Coast operations.

NBCU last week said it launched a probe into the culture of the prime-time entertainment unit of NBC, its flagship broadcast network, which is overseen by entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy. The probe followed a story in The Hollywood Reporter that painted a picture of a toxic and misogynistic environment in the unit.

Mr. Telegdy denied the claims, saying in a statement last week, "the nature of these allegations flies in the face of everything I stand for. I hope that my actions over decades -- empowering those around me, supporting artists, and creating shows with values of aspiration and inclusion at the core -- speak louder than the selective words of a few."

Write to Joe Flint at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 04, 2020 12:38 ET (16:38 GMT)

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