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Layoffs have begun in Disney’s television divisions.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Monday’s layoffs focused production and acquisitions. Among the notable staffers let go Monday are Jayne Bieber, senior vp production at Freeform/Onyx Collective; Mark Levenstein, head of production and postproduction at Hulu; and Elizabeth Newman, head of Disney’s acquisitions department.
Sources note Newman’s entire acquisitions team has been dissolved, while Bieber and Levenstein’s production teams will be folded under Carol Turner, exec vp production at ABC Signature. That team will continue to report to Eric Schrier, whom Dana Walden promoted late last year to president of Disney Television Studios and business operations at Disney General Entertainment.
Details on the size of Monday’s layoffs or what percentage of Disney’s workforce was impacted were not immediately available as additional TV side layoffs are expected to come by week’s end, with the largest round coming in April.
As Disney CEO Bob Iger warned Monday, layoffs would be starting this week as part of a round of cuts that would eliminate a total of 7,000 staffers. In February, Iger said that Disney will trim 7,000 jobs as part of a streamlined restructuring that will focus on three divisions: Disney Entertainment; ESPN; and Parks, Experiences and Products. The cuts, he said, are “necessary for creating a more effective, coordinated and streamlined approach to our business,” Iger wrote in an internal memo Monday, adding that senior leaders have been evaluating their operational needs since he announced the cuts. The third and final round of layoffs is expected to come before the start of the summer, Iger said.
The staff cuts are part of a larger plan to create $5.5 billion in cost savings at the company and come as other conglomerates are similarly reducing their workforce in a bid to streamline staff and right-size their ranks as a recession looms.
Monday’s moves eliminate siloed production divisions and consolidate that department into one unit covering all of the TV side, while also eliminating a separate acquisitions unit.
Iger returned to the CEO role in a stunning move in November after Disney’s board ousted his previous replacement, Bob Chapek, after only two and a half years in the role. Iger’s first action item since returning to the Mouse House was to oust Chapek’s top lieutenant, Kareem Daniel. As part of Chapek’s Disney restructuring, he tapped Daniel to lead the newly created the Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution division. The unit frustrated creative executives as Daniel had control of all of Disney’s non-parks revenue, controlling the purse strings on spending for TV and film.
After pushing out Daniel, Iger folded DMED, restructured to give financial oversight back to creatives, and tapped Walden and Alan Bergman to oversee Disney Entertainment, with Jimmy Pitaro continuing to lead ESPN and Josh D’Amaro running the parks and products division.
For her part, Bieber had been with Disney since 2009, starting as a producer at Disney Channel before rising through the ranks at ABC in the production and operations department. She served as vp of the department for more than a decade and earned her senior vp stripes in 2018, when she added Freeform to her purview.
Levenstein, meanwhile, had been with Hulu as head of production and postproduction since mid-2019.
Newman moved from the TV lit and media rights side at CAA to vp development at Disney in late 2019. She was named head of creative acquisitions in early 2021, when former Disney studio chief Craig Hunegs formed the creative acquisitions department that now reports to former FX brass Schrier.
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