Pop TV Hit by Layoffs Amid ViacomCBS Consolidation

The cabler was recently moved to Chris McCarthy's Entertainment & Youth Brands group after formerly being under Showtime Networks.
Courtesy of PopTV
'Schitt's Creek'

The ongoing consolidation at ViacomCBS is hitting Pop TV.

The cable network is undergoing layoffs in the wake of the channel's move from Showtime Networks to Chris McCarthy's Entertainment & Youth Brands at the recently merged conglomerate. Pop is known for its cult hit Schitt's Creek, which is airing its final season, and for reviving the critical favorite One Day at a Time after Netflix canceled it in 2019. The latter is set to premiere March 24.

Pop TV — which was formerly known as TV Guide Network when it was a joint venture between Lionsgate Television and CBS — also has a roster of well-reviewed scripted originals including the Anna Paquin-led Flack, Florida Girls and the upcoming Best Intentions. The network also is developing a comedy called Mother Mary, featuring another fan favorite, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend breakout Rachel Bloom.

"As we integrate Pop into the larger ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group, filled with some of the most powerful brands in the industry, a lot of the work is being centralized across the portfolio to truly unleash our collective strengths and maximize the power of our content," Schwartz wrote Friday in a memo to staff. "To that end, Pop will continue to be an important part of the business but, unfortunately, we are saying goodbye to some close friends and talented colleagues."

Sources say Schwartz was among the ViacomCBS execs who traveled this week to New York for meetings with his new direct report, McCarthy, where, among other things, he was already talking with higher-ups about a possible early renewal for One Day at a Time. McCarthy, who has been a rising star since Bob Bakish took over Viacom as CEO, was promoted in November to add oversight of Comedy Central, Paramount Network, TV Land and Smithsonian to a purview that already included MTV, VH1, Logo and CMT. McCarthy added Pop TV in January as the little-watched network that houses syndicated repeats of favorites like ER and Dawson's Creek was moved from the Showtime Networks group to the Entertainment & Youth Studios unit. 

Keith Cox, another rising star who worked his way up from the No. 2 spot at TV Land to now serve as president of Entertainment & Youth Studios, in January added Pop to his portfolio that includes Paramount Network, MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, CMT, TV Land, Logo and Smithsonian Channel.

Pop is in about 70 million homes, a footprint that's smaller than more established cable networks like AMC, FX or USA, but in the same range as channels like Sundance and Oxygen. The network landed its first-ever Emmy nominations in 2019 with four for Schitt's Creek, including one for outstanding comedy series. Schitt's Creek is averaging more than 1 million viewers per episode across all platforms in its final season, which is set to end in April. One Day at a Time was due to premiere just over a year after Netflix canceled the show and nine months after Pop revived it in the first instance of a linear network resuscitating a streaming series.

Bakish has spent much of his Viacom tenure on a cost-cutting and consolidation tear, with executives at every cable network having been pushed out. Longtime Viacom execs Debra Lee (BET), Kevin Kay (Paramount Network), Kent Alterman and, before him, Michele Ganeless (Comedy Central), Cyma Zarghami (Nickelodeon), Larry Jones (TV Land) and Brian Philips (CMT) have all been ushered out under Bakish's regime.

Schwartz's memo to Pop staff is below.

Hi everyone,

Before joining ViacomCBS, we operated as a standalone company and we were therefore staffed accordingly. As we integrate Pop into the larger ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group, filled with some of the most powerful brands in the industry, a lot of the work is being centralized across the portfolio to truly unleash our collective strengths and maximize the power of our content.

To that end, Pop will continue to be an important part of the business but, unfortunately, we are saying goodbye to some close friends and talented colleagues.

We have built something very special that you should all be immensely proud of. We did the impossible. In less than five years, we went from being a TV Guide Network with a listing scroll still on 30% of our screens, to an Emmy-nominated network with a million+ viewer hit, a breakthrough brand, and two of the most critically praised and culturally-significant shows on television.

Moving forward, I’ll continue to run Pop and work alongside Chris as part of the Entertainment & Youth senior leadership team across the brands.

I thank you dearly for the heart and soul you have brought to everything we do.

With sincere thanks, respect and appreciation,

Brad