ViacomCBS Hit With Another Round of Layoffs

Bob Bakish
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ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish

Another round of layoffs is underway at ViacomCBS.

Sources say 100 employees from across the combined company are being impacted. The cutbacks are focused primarily in shared services (finance, legal, technology), though reductions are said to have touched every department, including ad sales and creative functions.

ViacomCBS declined comment.

The layoffs are the latest wave of changes in the wake of the re-merger between Viacom and CBS. As part of the consolidation of the two media giants, Wednesday's layoffs eliminated redundancies in various departments. Those positions are traditionally eliminated when resources are combined as part of cost-cutting moves.

The cost-cutting at ViacomCBS started in January, a month after the two conglomerates reunited. Rounds of layoffs have been taking place since. The company — which has 20,000-plus employees — February raised its planned cost-savings guidance from $500 million to $750 million over three years as it consolidates teams from Viacom and CBS media assets.

That same month, Pop TV was effectively unplugged as a home for original programming (like Schitt's Creek and One Day at a Time). Network president Brad Schwartz left shortly afterward. An April round of reductions impacted ViacomCBS' ad sales division, MTV News, Paramount Network, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Smithsonian Channel. CBS News was hit hard by layoffs a month later. An amended notice in September indicated the cuts, which began in April, have already impacted 711 staffers.

On the entertainment side, ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group topper Chris McCarthy has absorbed oversight of network after network in the past few years as the company, like others, does away with individual network oversight. McCarthy, who has been a rising star since Bob Bakish took over Viacom as CEO, oversees a portfolio that includes Comedy Central, Paramount Network, TV Land, Pop, Smithsonian, MTV, VH1, Logo and CMT. As part of those moves, development was consolidated into a central group with a number of creative executives leaving the company.

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), among others, have all been ushered out under Bakish's regime. In October, Marc DeBevoise, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Digital and chief digital officer, was pushed out at ViacomCBS. The company instead installed Pluto TV chief Tom Ryan to lead the group as president and CEO as ViacomCBS rebrands streaming service CBS All Access to Paramount+ next year.

The layoffs arrive the same day as NBCUniversal began a round of cutbacks in Frances Berwick's entertainment business division. 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.