Disney-ABC Begins to Lay Off TV Employees

ABC/Adam Taylor
ABC's 'Blackish'

The cuts were rumored to happen before the end of the year.

Walt Disney and its ABC Television Group began handing out pink slips on Thursday, part of a restructuring as the conglomerate delves deeper into the on-demand digital distribution of its TV shows.

The move was not unexpected, as sources told The Hollywood Reporter six weeks ago that Disney was aiming to reduce costs by 10 percent by the end of the fiscal year.

Sources said about 200 people will lose their jobs, with cuts coming from the Disney Channel, DisneyXD and Disney Junior, as well as ABC Entertainment, ABC Studios and Freeform, the network targeting 14- to 34-year-olds.

The largest number of layoffs, according to insiders, are coming from the non-content and operation sides of the TV business. 

The conglomerate's sports network, ESPN, won't be affected this time around, though that business already cut about 100 jobs earlier this year after laying off 350 three years ago. ESPN has lost more than 12 million subscribers in the past half-dozen years.

Disney's TV business, like the rest of the industry, is struggling to deal with a fast-changing marketplace that has American consumers cutting back on their viewership of traditional TV while ramping up on VOD through digital services like Amazon.com and Netflix.

Disney, in fact, said in August it would be yanking its Pixar- and Disney-branded product from Netflix and launching its own streaming service in 2019, and Star Wars and Marvel content is expected there, as well. It also said it would launch an ESPN streaming service next year.

To help launch those ambitious new products, Disney acquired a majority of BAMTech, a streaming technology company that was formerly an asset of Major League Baseball.

A source said Thursday that while layoffs are happening now, the company will be hiring again soon as it ramps up its digital initiatives.