ViacomCBS Chief Updates Staff on Layoffs, Cost-Cutting Measures

Robert Bakish-Getty-H 2019
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CEO Bob Bakish says the merged firm will "streamline our operations, manage our costs as diligently as we can, and follow through on our committed post-merger synergy targets."

As ViacomCBS keeps up its plan for $750 million in post-merger cost savings, CEO Bob Bakish on Wednesday sent a note to employees as an update on the company's progress.

"I know that even before the coronavirus pandemic, we were already in a period of significant change to integrate our newly combined company," wrote Bakish, adding that the company plans to continue "to integrate and streamline our operations, manage our costs as diligently as we can, and follow through on our committed post-merger synergy targets."

Staffers at ViacomCBS' advertising sales division as well as MTV News and other units were cut Wednesday as part of the ongoing restructuring. Executives at the Smithsonian Channel, Paramount Network, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon were impacted by the cost-saving measures as well. 

On Feb. 20, the newly merged conglomerate, which has 20,000-plus employees, 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. 

A month later, as a pandemic effectively shuttered Hollywood film and TV production, ViacomCBS warned in a March 27 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the novel coronavirus would have a "material" impact on its business and said it was "also working proactively to offset a portion of anticipated revenue losses through cost-savings initiatives."

ViacomCBS cited "cancellation or rescheduling of sports events for which the company had broadcast rights, and production delays in television and filmed entertainment" and said it wasn't able to estimate the impact on future operating results. 

In April, ViacomCBS became the latest Hollywood giant to launch a $100 million relief fund for workers who were impacted on halted film and TV productions. Bakish, in a note to staff at the time, said "funds will also support grants by the Motion Picture & Television Fund and The Actors Fund, as well as contributions to charitable organizations."

ViacomCBS plans to report its first-quarter earnings on May 7. Bakish's Wednesday memo is below.

Team,

I know these past weeks have been challenging, and have forced us to deal with major disruptions in our personal and professional lives. And I know that even before the coronavirus pandemic, we were already in a period of significant change to integrate our newly combined company — work that is helping us weather this crisis, creatively adapt and strengthen the resiliency of our business.

As I said at our last Bob Live, however, it’s critical that we continue these efforts to integrate and evolve ViacomCBS to remain competitive now and for the future. This means continuing to integrate and streamline our operations, manage our costs as diligently as we can, and follow through on our committed post-merger synergy targets.

Throughout this transformation, we want to be as supportive of our employees as possible, particularly given the circumstances we’re in. Some of us are saying goodbye to incredible team members and friends — people who have made lasting contributions to the success of our company and have enriched our culture. I want to assure you that we are focused on making their transitions easier at this time, while supporting the needs of all our employees and their families.

I realize you may have questions, and I look forward to answering them, and providing another update on our progress at Bob Live shortly after we report earnings next week.

In the meantime, thank you for your continued hard work and focus, and for everything you do to make our company better for our audiences, partners and communities around the world.

Please stay healthy and safe.

Best,
Bob 

April 29, 4:50 pm PST Updated with more detail on divisions impacted Wednesday.