CBS Hit by Newest Round of ViacomCBS Layoffs

The cuts at the broadcast network come a month after similar actions at the company's cable properties.
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CBS' entertainment and news divisions are going through a round of layoffs as part of the restructuring following the merger with Viacom.

The layoffs, which began late Tuesday and continued into Wednesday, come about a month after a round of cuts on ViacomCBS' cable side that saw the exits of Smithsonian Channel president Tom Hayden and senior Comedy Central executive Sarah Babineau, among others. Pop TV has also been affected. 

"We are restructuring various operations at CBS as part our ongoing integration with Viacom, and to adapt to changes in our business, including those related to COVID-19," a CBS spokesperson said. "Our thoughts today are with our departing colleagues for their friendship, service and many important contributions to CBS."

In a memo, CBS CEO George Cheeks wrote that the layoffs are a combination of post-merger streamlining, "the ongoing and transformative changes happening in the media business, as well as circumstances from the unprecedented pandemic that we continue to navigate."

CBS News president Susan Zirinsky wrote in a memo to her staff, "Working with reduced budgets, we have had to make some extremely difficult decisions. I’m sad to report today that some of our colleagues and good friends will be leaving the company. These decisions are particularly painful for our entire organization, which has performed at the highest level during the COVID-19 pandemic, overcoming so many obstacles. But this restructuring is necessary to ensure CBS News remains strong long into the future."

ViacomCBS has undergone several rounds of layoffs since the merger closed in December. This week's cuts are the first layoffs on the broadcast side, although a number of executives have departed since the merger. 

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish wrote in an April 29 memo to the company that the cost-cutting measures will help "streamline our operations, manage our costs as diligently as we can, and follow through on our committed post-merger synergy targets."

Deadline first reported the CBS layoffs.

Read the full memos from Cheeks and Zirinsky, below.

George Cheeks' memo:

Colleagues — I am reaching out to everyone this morning with an update about something that is happening across CBS today. For full transparency, we are in the process of restructuring various operations, and unfortunately, this means there are layoffs.

As part of this process, valued members of our team will be leaving the company. These are dedicated and passionate colleagues who love CBS like we all do — and they have been a big part of our success. We will miss them, and we thank them sincerely for their service to and their stewardship of CBS. They will have strong support from our HR professionals as part of this transition, and they have our unending gratitude.

There are several reasons for today’s events. First, in some cases, this is part of our continued integration of operations following the merger with Viacom. You probably have read about recent employee actions at the ViacomCBS cable brands and other cross-company groups.

Second, these moves are in response to the ongoing and transformative changes happening in the media business, as well as circumstances from the unprecedented pandemic that we continue to navigate. We’ve already seen new and creative ways that we’ve adapted to these changes, and that evolution needs to continue.

I assure you that these decisions were not made quickly or easily. They entailed a lot of hard thinking about how we need to operate going forward to position a stronger CBS for the future.

I know our group has experienced a lot of change in the past year. Your resiliency, adaptability, teamwork and commitment to our success is a major source of pride, and these traits will serve the company well down the road.

I’m confident from what I’ve seen in just two short months here that we can continue our leadership position in all our businesses while ensuring our iconic brand and valued content thrive as the media world continues to evolve.

I’m sure you have many questions about today and the days ahead. I look forward to discussing all of this with you at a CBS Town Hall that we’re planning in June.

Thank you as always for your commitment to your colleagues and to CBS.

Susan Zirinsky's memo:

You should have just received a note from CBS CEO George Cheeks about changes today at the Company. Unfortunately, these changes today include CBS News.

No one could have foreseen the economic fallout from the pandemic coming on top of the cost savings initiatives already underway from the merger of CBS and Viacom. As a result, we have scrutinized our entire business model, our budgets, and what we learned in news gathering during the last months. We are not alone; media companies and businesses all over the country are re-organizing and developing new operating models.

Working with reduced budgets, we have had to make some extremely difficult decisions. I’m sad to report today that some of our colleagues and good friends will be leaving the company.

These decisions are particularly painful for our entire organization, which has performed at the highest level during the Covid-19 pandemic, overcoming so many obstacles. But this restructuring is necessary to ensure CBS News remains strong long into the future.

CBS News is not alone in this process — similar changes are happening across many CBS divisions today and have taken place in Viacom divisions over the past few months. We looked at every option and exhausted other available cost-savings before taking this step. There is nothing more upsetting than having to face these economic realities and I’ve tried very hard to minimize the impact on all of you.

Kim [Godwin] and I will be joining regular show meetings throughout the day to answer any questions you may have about today’s news.

As journalists, we know that every change like this impacts a colleague and their family. There isn’t a single person we won’t miss, but we have a responsibility to respond to a financial world that has changed dramatically over the last few months.  And we have a responsibility to position CBS News for the future.  While it is a painful day, I know the strength and the power of this organization, and I know that we can go forward in a meaningful way.

I want to thank every single person who is leaving us for their dedication to this organization.

Zirinsky