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NBC to Cut Jobs Amid TV Unit's Weak Performance

Hundreds of employees could be laid off. The firm's news division may be most vulnerable.

October 19, 2006|Martin Miller | Times Staff Writer

Plagued by the weak performance of its TV broadcasting unit, NBC Universal is expected to announce a corporate restructuring today that could lead to major job cuts at several of its divisions.

About 1% of NBC Universal's workforce, an estimated 600 to 800 employees, could be eliminated, said company executives with knowledge of the plan.

It's unclear how many spots will be cut at NBC's Burbank broadcast network, its television and movie studios and its cable division. The news division, based in New York, is expected to be the most vulnerable to cuts, according to two sources who declined to be named because the plan hadn't been disclosed to employees. NBC is looking to reduce redundancies in the back office operations of CNBC, MSNBC and NBC News, these executives said.

Jeff Zucker, chief executive of the NBC Universal Television Group, is expected to meet with employees in New York today to explain the company's plans, as well as the cutbacks.

Under an initiative known as TV 2.0, Zucker has been studying how best to structure his group, which does not include the movie studio, for delivery of content to consumers in the digital age.

The NBC layoffs follow similar belt-tightening this year within the traditional media business as consumers and advertisers have been lured away by entertainment options such as iPods, video games and the Internet. This summer, Walt Disney Co. slashed hundreds of jobs in its feature film division.

NBC officials declined to comment on the widespread reports triggered by a posting Wednesday on the website fishbowldc.com.

The company's operating profit fell by 10% in the third quarter despite higher revenue from a successful string of film and DVD releases. Dragging down results were the high costs of new prime-time programs such as "Kidnapped" and Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." Pilots for both shows cost close to $7 million, and the ratings have been disappointing.

NBC's layoffs come even though the network has posted a 15% year-to-year increase in the all-important 18-to-49-year-old demographic. Much of that gain can be traced to NBC's highly rated Sunday night broadcasts of professional football games.

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martin.miller@latimes.com

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