NBCUniversal braces for layoffs in midst of organizational restructuring

NBCUniversal is preparing to make significant cuts to its staff across its entire portfolio of brands ahead of an organizational restructuring to its streaming operations, Realscreen has confirmed. The layoffs will affect less ...
August 5, 2020

NBCUniversal is preparing to make significant cuts to its staff across its entire portfolio of brands ahead of an organizational restructuring to its streaming operations, Realscreen has confirmed.

The layoffs will affect less than 10% of NBCU’s overall 35,000-strong staff, but will hit hardest across the company’s sports and cable networks, broadcast, movie studio and theme parks businesses, according to The Wall Street Journal.

An NBCUniversal representative refused to comment further on the layoffs.

News of the layoffs come as NBCUniversal is in the midst of overhauling its entertainment operations under CEO Jeff Shell, who has been aligning NBCU’s television networks under the new division of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, led by Mark Lazarus. Lazarus was appointment in May as chairman.

During Comcast’s second quarter earnings call last Thursday, Shell revealed that the unit under Lazarus is “finalizing a new structure” aimed at redirecting resources away from the company’s traditional TV operations and instead bolstering its newfound streaming efforts.

The downsizing also comes as the novel coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the media industry, where the majority of television and film productions across Los Angeles have been forced to shutter. As a result, NBCU’s bottom line has been negatively impacted, with revenues sliding 25.4% to US$6.1 billion in the second quarter. Second quarter revenues at NBCU’s parent company, Comcast, also dipped by 11.7% to US$23.7 billion.

For the six-month period ended June 30, the mediaco’s revenue decreased 16.1% compared to last year, a direct result of delayed movie releases, advertising drops through its television properties and rampant theme park closures.

NBCU’s highly anticipated streamer, Peacock, debuted nationally July 15 with 10 million sign-ups to date.

Comcast’s downward trending quarterly results extended to cable networks and broadcast television, which saw revenue declines of 14.7% and 1.6%, respectively.

The company attributed those declines to lower distribution and advertising revenue, as well as the fallout of COVID-19, particularly around the cancellation or postponement of sporting events.

Revenues for Comcast’s European broadcaster Sky, meanwhile, decreased 15.5% in the second quarter of 2020, driven by lower direct-to-consumer revenue, advertising revenue and content revenue.

Amid layoffs, NBCU is reportedly investigating damaging allegations that NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy fostered a “toxic” work environment, as laid out by The Hollywood Reporter on Friday (July 31).

THR reported more than 30 producers, executives and other “network insiders” alleged Telegdy engaged in “racist, sexist and homophobic” behavior, particularly in the reality division.

In a statement to myriad publications, an NBC spokesperson said the company would be investigating the allegations, stating “many of which are coming to our attention for the first time.”

Telegdy told THR: “The nature of these allegations flies in the face of everything I stand for. I hope that my actions over decades — empowering those around me, supporting artists, and creating shows with values of aspiration and inclusion at the core — speak louder than the selective words of a few”

Under Telegdy, NBC’s unscripted series and special programming has included such franchises as The Voice, World of Dance, American Ninja Warrior, Ellen’s Game of Games and others.

As chairman of NBC Entertainment, Telegdy is responsible for overseeing all aspects of primetime and scripted daytime programming for the network, including business affairs, marketing, communications, scheduling, West Coast research and digital operations, as well as first-run syndication.

The executive, previously president of NBC Entertainment’s alternative and reality group, came under fire in recent months after former America’s Got Talent judge Gabrielle Union filed a harassment complaint in the state of California against NBC and producers behind the reality competition.

As reported by Deadline and The Chicago Tribune, the complaint — launched in June — alleged Telegdy attempted to “undermine” an investigation into the behind-the-scenes culture at AGT by “pressuring Union from providing her true experience of racial discrimination and a hostile work environment.”

The complaint also alleged “Telegdy threatened Union through her agent and warned Union’s agent that Union had better cease from pursuing her claims of racism while filming AGT.”

In a statement, the network, which engaged an outside investigator to review discrimination complaints, said the allegation that anyone in the process threatened Union was “categorically untrue.”

With files from Daniele Alcinii and Jillian Morgan

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.