NBC Slashes Jobs, Plans Revamp

NBC Universal logo with scissor cutting over employees.
NBC Universal said Thursday it would cut 700 jobs and streamline its news operations as part an overhaul that is aimed at exploiting new forms of electronic distribution.

NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., said it expects the revamp to save $750 million in operating expenses by 2008. The job cuts would represent about 5 percent of its work force.

As part of the changes, NBC's long-struggling 24-hour cable news channel MSNBC will move its operations to NBC's headquarters in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center and also to another NBC facility in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

The company's TV station group will also create a consolidated news facility in Burbank, Calif. that will support NBC as well as its Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo.

The revamp will also affect the company's Universal Studios business, where cuts will be made to consolidate support and marketing functions.

The expected savings follow three lackluster years at NBC Universal, where operating profit fell 10 percent in each of the past three quarters. The slumping results cut into GE earnings.

MSNBC reports the initiative has been dubbed "NBCU 2.0."

NBC Universal will stop scheduling high-priced dramas and comedies during the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. slot, The Wall Street Journal reported in advance of the announcement Thursday.

Jeff Zucker, chief executive of NBC Universal's television group, said he'll focus on cheaper programming.

Zucker told the newspaper that scripted shows cost too much given the lack of advertiser interest.

NBC's cost-saving plan involves laying off people from the company's 11 news divisions, including on-air talent.

The announcement comes as the number of U.S. workers lining up for jobless benefits unexpectedly fell by 10,000 last week, according to a government report that revealed a relatively stable job market.