CBS initiates round of layoffs amid digital refocus

The news makes CBS the latest national broadcaster to trim some of its personnel while streamlining operations.(Kristin Dos Santos)

CBS has quietly begun a round of layoffs and buyouts at its broadcast network and syndication groups over the past month. The news comes amid a digital refocus at CBS that has spanned the last year. The layoffs are relatively minor and will only affect “dozens” of employees, according to TheWrap.

The news makes CBS the latest national broadcaster to trim some of its personnel while streamlining operations. EPSN, ABC and Tribune Media have all undergone rounds of layoffs over the course of 2017 in response to slow revenue growth and subscriber losses.

CBS chief Les Moonves, who has embraced the rise of streaming more warmly than some of the other broadcasters, told audiences at Variety’s recent Innovate Summit that the company is considering moving more of its operations to online distribution. That might include launching an entertainment news service based on the longstanding and popular "Entertainment Tonight" TV show.

The broadcaster is also planning to launch a free, ad-supported sports streaming service, called CBS Sports HQ, though Moonves said the service won’t stream live games. Instead, Moonves is envisioning a sports news service where fans can get updates on athletes, scores and game highlights. CBS has rights to games from NFL, the NCAA, FCC football and PGA Tour Golf, which could attract a diverse set of sports fans to the upcoming service.

CBS’s growing portfolio of streaming properties includes SVoD services CBS All Access and Showtime, as well as the ad-supported 24/7 live streaming news channel, CBSN. All three of those services have made significant viewer gains, according to CBS. All Access now has 2 million subscribers, which Moonves credited to its content strategy. This year, CBS released the latest installment of the Star Trek franchise, entitled “Star Trek: Discovery,” exclusively on its All Access service, along with another original series, “The Good Fight,” a spinoff of the CBS hit “The Good Wife.” CBS also began streaming its NFL games on All Access earlier this year.

Showtime’s OTT service has also surpassed the 2 million subscriber milestone, which puts CBS “way ahead” of its growth trajectory for the two services. “The plan is working,” Moonves said.