MTV staff rocked as heads roll

Cabler trims 450 from online, other divisions

MTV on Monday laid off 450 employees — roughly 9% of its workforce — in the deepest cuts at the network in its 20-year history.

The dismissals cut across all job descriptions, covering just as many people in the senior veep, VP and director categories as at the coordinator and assistant levels.

Calling the cutbacks a tough and painful decision, Tom Freston, chairman and CEO of MTV Networks, said in a statement that the “new economic” times forced the first restructuring of the company since 1989.

Freston spelled out the following changes, among others, in a memo to employees:

  • The web sites of MTV, Nickelodeon and VH1 will no longer operate as separate companies at their own location on two floors at 770 Broadway. The online divisions will take the biggest hit in total number of layoffs. The surviving Web people will move to one of MTV Networks’ two locations in midtown.

  • Nick at Nite and TV Land will be consolidated, causing a number of staffers in marketing, production and affiliate sales to walk the plank.

  • MTV will shut down its animation studio, saving money by hiring outside companies to produce its cartoon series and specials.

  • Further restructuring will take place at TNN, VH1 and Nickelodeon.

  • The separate affiliate-marketing departments at the various MTV networks will be centralized under one companywide unit.

  • The company will cut higher-salaried people at the central offices of the international divisions of the various networks and hire extra people in local foreign cities. The separate Latin American organizations of MTV and Nickelodeon will become consolidated.

The overriding reason for the moves is that MTV Networks is heavily dependent on advertising revenues, which have fallen off drastically this year, dragged down by one of the worst economic climates in Madison Avenue’s history.

Even before the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, cable networks were coming off their most miserable upfront advertising marketplace ever. The events helped push the overall economy into a recession that has darkened the climate even more for advertisers who buy time on MTV’s cable networks.

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