NBCU Wields Axe: 500 Likely to Fall

NEW YORK NBC Universal has begun paring its global workforce in a cost-cutting measure that will impact approximately 500 employees.

The first wave of cuts began Wednesday, as some 30 support-staff positions in NBC’s ad sales and research departments were eliminated. Other properties in the midst of staff reductions include the NBC News division, at the bureau level (Washington, D.C.; Dallas; Burbank, Calif.), and CNBC.

Early reports put the number of staffers impacted at CNBC as high as 80, but sources have characterized that figure as an inaccurate overstatement. At the same time, a CNBC spokesman confirmed that the net’s 10 p.m. show, The Big Idea With Donnie Deutsch, is going on hiatus. Deutsch will stay on as a regular CNBC personality, with plans to appear in a series of monthly specials.

The media business is reeling this week, with big cuts also taking place at Viacom and Gannett.

The moves come on the heels of NBCU president and CEO Jeff Zucker’s recent mandate to slash $500 million, or about 3 percent, of the company’s budget. Zucker first gave NBCU employees a heads-up in an internal memo issued Oct. 18.

“This kind of message is never easy, but it is the right step to make, and the right time to make it,” Zucker said. “We have no choice but to respond quickly to the external economic forces that are affecting the entire world economy.”

Zucker went on to say that still more challenges lie ahead. “It’s increasingly clear that the worldwide economic slowdown will continue well into next year,” he said.

NBCU’s reductions are expected to continue into next week. The Universal Pictures division is also expected to reduce its headcount by 3 percent, or 70 staffers.

Shares of NBCU parent General Electric fell 7 cents to $18.06 in mid-afternoon trading Thursday. Before the market opened this morning, GE stock had lost 50 percent of its value year-to-date.

The NBCU layoffs arrive concurrently with the loss of 850 jobs at Viacom.