Layoffs loom at NBCUniversal

NBCUniversal's new CEO Jeff Shell alluded to future layoffs on Comcast's second quarter 2020 earnings call. (HanSangYoon/Wikipedia)

A few thousand NBCUniversal employees will lose their jobs as the Comcast subsidiary responds to the novel-coronavirus pandemic with a cost-cutting effort.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint reported the sackings Tuesday, citing “people familiar with the matter.” Flint wrote that “less than 10%” of NBCU’s 35,000 full-time employees would get sent to the exits.

In addition to the pandemic, which has wrecked out-of-home entertainment and halted TV and movie production across the industry, the WSJ story pointed to leadership shuffles at NBCU.

RELATED: NBCU leadership shakeup puts Lazarus in charge of Peacock

In May, new CEO Jeff Shell put all of that firm’s entertainment business under sports and local-TV executive Mike Lazarus as part of a plan to accelerate NBCU’s transition from linear TV to streaming. That reorganization also saw NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andrew Lack forced out after charges that Lack failed to stop anchor Matt Lauer’s sexual harassment and slow-walked investigations of Harvey Weinstein.

“Mark is finalizing a new structure that will demonstrate the unique way we intend to manage this business going forward,” Shell said during Comcast’s Q2 earnings call July 30. “We will announce the structure soon.”

In addition to the headline news of those earnings — Comcast losing 477,000 pay-TV subscribers in its quarter – NBCU saw its consolidated revenues plummet by 25.4% to roughly $6.1 billion.

The biggest contributor to that roller-coaster plunge was the near-evaporation of NBCU’s theme-park business, with a 94.1% reduction in revenues.

Shell had emphasized the positive in summing up NBCU’s fortunes at the time, saying “given the circumstances, I'm pleased with our results for the second quarter.”

But his answer to an analyst question on the Q1 earnings call April 30 now looks more prescient: “On costs, the question about whether we’re right sized on costs given where the environment is headed, the answer is probably no, and we’re addressing that pretty aggressively.”