Disney-ABC TV Begins Layoffs, Restructuring

Disney/ABC Television Group has begun laying off employees, part of a long-anticipated restructuring and reallocation of resources at the Walt Disney Company’s non-sports broadcast and cable television arm.

A source tells Variety that the company began notifying affected employees Thursday morning. The volume of employees impacted is said to be significantly lower than the 10% workforce cut that had been speculated when news broke of the layoff plan six weeks ago.

Cuts are impacting all the group’s entertainment units, including ABC Entertainment  ABC Studios, Disney Channel, DisneyXD, Disney Junior, and Freeform — but impact is expected to be minimal on production and programming. The majority of jobs being eliminated hail from non-content related or operational sectors.

The move is in part a cost-cutting measure, in part a reallocation of resources as the company shifts toward newer forms of content distribution and greater automation in some operational areas. The company is expected to be posting job opening for several new positions in the weeks ahead.

Disney’s TV businesses, including the ABC broadcast network face the same headwinds as other linear-television companies, as viewers migrate toward digital and on-demand viewing and cable subscriber levels creep downward. The layoffs billed as a way to address the challenges presented by those trends.

A spokesperson for Disney/ABC Television Group declined to comment. Deadline originally reported that layoffs had begun.

In 2013, Disney implemented more than 150 staff cuts in the film marketing, home video and consumer products arena in a similar effort to reallocate resources from traditional job functions that had become less vital in the digital era. In 2010, ABC News shed some 400 jobs as the division was forced to come to grips with declining ratings and revenue.

These most recent cuts come at a time when competitors are plowing money into TV content. Netflix earlier this month poached ABC’s highest-profile producer, Shonda Rhimes, signing her to a multi-year deal, and ending her 15-year relationship with ABC Studios that yielded hits such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.”

But ABC has boasted recent investments in talent and content — signing mega-producer Carlton Cuse to a four-year deal valued in its entirety in the low eight-figures, and recruiting singer Katy Perry to serve as a judge on “American Idol” for a fee of $25 million for one season.

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