Job-loss epidemic reaches Dis-ABC TV

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Disney-ABC Television Group on Thursday became the latest TV conglomerate to eliminate jobs, announcing 400 cuts across all divisions.

About 200 employees were let go. Another 200 open positions that were frozen temporarily will be eliminated. Among the hardest-hit divisions were ABC News and fledging digital studio Stage 9, which will be folded into ABC.com.

ABC News lost 35-37 jobs. Because it already has had cuts, most recently in the fall, the news division wasn't as hard hit this time around. There were layoffs at newsmagazines "Primetime" and "20/20" as well as the ABC News Now digital service and ABCNews.com. No top executives or on-air personnel were affected.

Overall, the job cuts represent about 5% of Disney-ABC TV Group's payroll.

The group's president, Anne Sweeney, made the announcement in an internal memo to the staff.

"After months of making hard decisions across our businesses to help us adjust to a weakening economy, we're now faced with the harsh reality of having to eliminate jobs in some areas," she wrote. "But despite the challenges before us, I remain confident and optimistic about our future because you really are the best team in the business."

The layoffs come a week after Sweeney announced the merger of ABC and ABC Studios into ABC Entertainment Group. No high-level executives from either division have been affected by the cuts as Stephen McPherson, the new group's president, continues to evaluate synergies between the network and studio.

The pink slips come before Disney faces investors Tuesday with its earnings report for fourth-quarter 2008.

Also hit by layoffs Thursday was the Disney Interactive Media Group. Video game division Disney Interactive Studios eliminated 35 positions at Propaganda Games, and more layoffs are expected as a result of restructuring at other developers owned by the conglomerate.

Disney Online also cut an unspecified number of lower-level jobs. The tally is said to be in the low double digits.

"The elimination of existing positions … was a necessary step that we had hoped to avoid," DIMG president Steve Wadsworth said in a memo. (partialdiff)
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