NBCUniversal Layoffs Begin in Frances Berwick's Business Division

Frances Berwick
Courtesy of NBCU

Layoffs have begun in the entertainment business side at NBCUniversal.

Sources say fewer than 5 percent of the total employees in Frances Berwick's recently reorganized division will be impacted. The cutbacks, which had been expected, will impact staffers that are vp level or below in such areas as PR, marketing, acquisitions and finance. Another round of layoffs is expected to come early next year in Susan Rovner's recently unveiled entertainment content unit.

NBCUniversal declined comment. (THR will update this post when and if additional information about those impacted becomes available.)

The layoffs are the result of the massive reorganization at NBCUniversal's TV and Streaming division. The effort, overseen by NBCUni CEO Jeff Shell and streaming and TV chairman Mark Lazarus, consolidated staff from across the TV and streaming space into two units overseen by Berwick and Rovner. Berwick oversees entertainment business strategy, which encompasses marketing, research, acquisitions, finance and publicity. Rovner is charged with all entertainment content, which includes scripted, unscripted, live events, late night and syndication.

Both Berwick and Rovner's teams each oversee responsibilities for a consolidated portfolio, meaning an executive working on reality programming at E!, for example, will now do so for NBC, streamer Peacock, Bravo, Oxygen, Syfy and USA Network.

Berwick, the former Lifestyle Networks chief, was promoted Aug. 6 as part of a major restructuring at NBCU. She announced her leadership team Sept. 16, with Wednesday's layoffs affecting redundancies in areas under her purview, including marketing, PR and so on. Sources note that any open positions will not be filled, which helped reduce the bloodshed Wednesday.

Rovner, meanwhile, started at NBCUni in October. In the time since, she has met with executives across her portfolio. She unveiled her leadership team Tuesday, opting to promote from within the company as she built a team to oversee scripted, unscripted and other programming areas for Peacock, NBC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen, E! and Universal Kids. Once those genre leaders install their respective teams, another round of layoffs will take place. That is expected to come in early 2021 as, similar to Wednesday's layoffs, redundancies across merged departments are eliminated in favor of centralized content teams.

Still, NBCUniversal has already seen a number of high-profile executives leave in the wake of the reorganization. NBC entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy and his top unscripted exec, Meredith Ahr, were both pushed out after an investigation at company found that they fostered a toxic culture, allegations of which were first detailed by The Hollywood Reporter. Beloved USA and Syfy president Chris McCumber exited in September as a result of the restructuring that eliminated the need for individual network leaders. Respected Peacock, USA and Syfy programming head Bill McGoldrick departed this week after he was passed over for the role that eventually went to Rovner. Longtime NBC marketing chief Len Fogge also departed after more than a decade at the company after his role was absorbed by NBC Sports Group CMO Jennifer Storms.

The layoffs under Berwick's team are the latest in a wave of cutbacks at NBCU. The company's theme park unit, sports division and Telemundo underwent layoffs earlier this year as a result of the company's economic downturn prompted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic, which has caused massive revenue hits across the entertainment industry, has prompted most major conglomerates to restructure. NBCUniversal, Disney and WarnerMedia have all reshaped their executive ranks in a bid to both better position themselves for the streaming era as well as cut costs by consolidating resources and eliminating staffing redundancies. All three media titans have had multiple rounds of layoffs, with more on the way as Disney has only recently begun its reorganization.