ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish acknowledged current challenges and sought to reinforce the importance of the company’s post-merger consolidation in a memo to staff yesterday, as layoffs continued.
“I know these past weeks have been challenging, and have forced us to deal with major disruptions in our personal and professional lives,” Bakish wrote. “And I know that even before the coronavirus pandemic, we were already in a period of significant change to integrate our newly combined company — work that is helping us weather this crisis, creatively adapt and strengthen the resiliency of our business… it’s critical that we continue these efforts to integrate and evolve ViacomCBS to remain competitive now and for the future. This means continuing to integrate and streamline our operations, manage our costs as diligently as we can, and follow through on our committed post-merger synergy targets.”
While no specific mentions of layoffs were made, Bakish acknowledged that they are ongoing, noting: “Some of us are saying goodbye to incredible team members and friends.” He added that the company is “focused on making their transitions easier at this time, while supporting the needs of all our employees and their families.”
According to The Wrap, layoffs took place across the organization yesterday, totaling “at least 100” employees, although the company made no statement on this, and the exact number is unclear.
Those affected include Smithsonian Network President Tom Hayden and Comedy Central head of content and creative enterprises Sarah Babineau, per that report. In addition, staff from ViacomCBS units including MTV News and LogoTV, including the latter’s editorial director, Matthew Breen, tweeted yesterday about being laid off.
On February 26, ViacomCBS amended its layoffs warning notification with New York State, indicating that a total of 117 employees across state sites would be affected by layoffs between April 15 and June 30.
The company had an initial round of layoffs in early December, directly following the merger’s close. Upcoming layoffs of between 500 and 700 have been “rumored,” according to Deadline.
Staff consolidation and operations streamlining are part of ViacomCBS’s commitment to investors to slash costs post-merger. On February 20, the company upped the cost-savings target from $500 million to $750 million over three years.
Last month, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, ViacomCBS acknowledged that the pandemic-forced shutdowns of TV and film production and indefinite suspension of sports events for which it has broadcast rights would have a “material” but as yet unquantifiable impact on its business. Management is working to offset a “portion” of revenue losses via the cost savings, per the filing.
In his memo, Bakish told staff he will update them further after the company’s first-quarter earnings report on May 7.