Back in June during NBC’s upfront, buried in articles in Variety and TVWeek were comments from Jeff Zucker regarding the cost cutting initiative NBCU 2.0…and how a new round of cuts was coming, total savings pegged somewhere between 1 and 1.5 Billion. That bombshell didn’t generate a lot of press at the time and the subject quickly faded from view. But it appears now that those cuts may begin to manifest themselves.
First, some additional background. By all accounts, NBC Entertainment suffered a bad November sweeps, which caused some talk of advertiser “re-appreciation” of NBC because their up front promises weren’t matching expectations. From a John Consoli Mediaweek article on the subject.
“In the last upfront, we gave NBC the benefit of the doubt. But if things keep up like this, we may have to take a different approach in the next upfront,” said another agency exec, who declined to speak for attribution. “If these huge ratings declines continue, we will have to look at NBC with a more jaundiced eye.”
The Writers’ Strike certainly didn’t help any as it forced not just NBC but everyone else to make some tough choices with regards to programming in the near term (like ending Heroes for the “season” in November). In addition it put the longterm planning for the rest of the 2007-2008 season in serious doubt. This can only add to the possibility of revenue shortfall.
So, not only were more cuts already planned but there is now the danger of future revenue shortfall if NBC Entertainment continues to underperform and the strike’s effects ripple throughout the company. These things can get circular. Cuts can affect programming which in turn can affect revenue which in turn can cause another round of cuts. And, fairly or unfairly, when cuts come one of the first things that’s looked at is News.
The reason I’m giving you all this backround is it sets the stage for what I’m about to write next.
ICN has received multiple tips that point to a new round of cuts coming to NBC News. There has been talk of closed door meetings going on amongst NBC News execs this week over this issue. Apparently they haven’t been able to keep a lid on it because from what I can tell the subject is definitely being whispered amongst some of the NBC staffers there. I’m hearing talk about Operational cutbacks, field crew bookings and assignments, the news desk, etc…a lot of infrastructure could be affected and based upon what I’ve been able to put together from the tips it sounds like nothing has been taken off the table on the operations end. I don’t know what else besides Operations might be under the knife but you have to figure that Operational cutbacks can’t be the only thing on the list being looked at.
As I said these rumblings concern NBC News, which isn’t something I normally blog about because what happens on NBC doesn’t always impact MSNBC and I have to be picky when I write about NBC for that reason. In fact none of the tips specifically mentioned MSNBC, which has already seen lots of cuts - it was one of the central reasons they moved into 30 Rock after all - but I don’t see how MSNBC can possibly escape from this unscathed given how NBC News and it are so totally and completely tied together at 30 Rock now. A cut to Operations at NBC will affect MSNBC. Field crew cuts would affect MSNBC. News desk cuts would affect MSNBC. Get the picture?
This is just the beginning. If the cuts are coming down hard we’ll be hearing a lot more about this soon.
Correction: I have amended the original entry to note that the cuts coming from the next round are not between 1 and 1.5 Billion dollars. Those figures are in fact the expected cuts/savings from all the cuts that will be made going back to the start of NBCU 2.0. The difference between the two statements is significant and I regret the error.